Yesterday plant-based burger startup Impossible Foods officially got the green light from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that their patties are safe to eat. Impossible voluntarily submitted their burger to the FDA for testing last year and was surprised when the regulatory body came back to them with a big red flag concerning the burger’s not-so-secret star ingredient: heme.
Though heme is typically found in animal tissue, it also occurs naturally in plants — albeit in smaller amounts. Impossible uses genetically modified yeast to produce large amounts of the stuff, which lends the trademark “bleeding” appearance, and meaty taste, to their burgers.
While the FDA was initially wary of approving heme, stating that there wasn’t enough information to establish its safety, it reversed its stance yesterday, claiming that the ingredient is “generally recognized as safe.”
Though it has cleared the FDA hurdle, Impossible Foods still gets flack for using genetically modified ingredients. Plant-based meat competitor Beyond Meat, however, made headlines today when it officially secured its status as non-GMO after a one-year review. Though many people, including Beyond Meat investor Bill Gates, believe that GMOs are “perfectly healthy,” the International Food Information Council Foundation revealed last month that nearly half of consumers avoid genetically modified food, believing it to be unhealthy.
These pieces of news are big wins for the respective alterna-meat startups. Business has been booming lately for both companies: Impossible recently started selling its vegan burger patties at White Castle and on select Air New Zealand flights, and Beyond has been selling out in grocery stores around the country, with plans for international expansion.