Trendy Impossible Burger is actually made with questionable ingredients such as GMOs

Have you heard of the new vegan burger that “bleeds” just like a real hamburger? Known as the Impossible Burger, it’s been turning up in hundreds of restaurants and fast food outlets around the country lately.

This food product garnered a lot of hype when it was in development. It attracted $400 million in funding that included contributions from Bill Gates. It’s debuting in 400 White Castle burger outlets this month and is already sold in places like Bareburger, Applebee’s, Whalburgers, and countless independent restaurants. It’s just the sort of menu item that appeals to health-conscious consumers – at least in theory. Vegan? Check. Delicious? Reports from those who have tried it have been generally positive. Organic? Not so fast.

The big beef many health-conscious consumers have with this product is related to this meat alternative’s defining characteristic: the way it bleeds when you cut it.

Although there are a lot of things you might miss when you give up traditional burgers for good in favor of healthier vegan options, one thing you probably don’t miss is their bloody appearance, reminding you that an innocent cow made the ultimate sacrifice for your feast. However, Impossible Foods somehow felt this was a desirable characteristic and went to the trouble of genetically modifying a soy protein called legume hemoglobin to give the product this effect.

Yes, that’s right: it’s genetically modified. Why, then, are so many restaurants marketing it as organic? It’s not clear whether they’re simply confused because the company hasn’t been upfront or they’re being intentionally misleading. According to Grub Street, organic burger chain Bareburger says that “everything going into your body is coming from nature” – even though the heme in the burger is created in a lab. Some of its locations even used hash tags like #nongmo and #organic while promoting this Frankenfood.

Chicago burger chain M Burger calls the product “100% free of hormones, antibiotics and artificial ingredients,” while the Hopdoddy chain placed in on a list of sandwiches that are “made with fresh, all-natural ingredients.” Buyer beware.

Untested GMO ingredient raising concerns

The Impossible Burger is made with a completely new ingredient to the human food supply; there’s never been anything like it before, and while that might make it innovative, that also means we don’t really know if it’s safe. There’s no precedent for exposure to such high amounts of this protein from either the natural form or the lab-grown variety used in the burgers. When the company asked the FDA if it would review the burger’s safety – something it did even though it wasn’t required – the agency initially responded that the safety of the soy leghemoglobin (SLH) had not been established.

It was later revealed that the startup tried to fix the situation by testing the additive on rats, earning the ire of environmental groups that were once on board with its approach, like PETA and the Sustainable Foods Summit.

To be fair, the company doesn’t hide the fact that SLH is GMO. While it does its best not to advertise that fact, it admits it halfway down the FAQ page of its website – explaining it in a way that somehow makes it sound not nearly as risky as it is, of course. They and their restaurant partners obviously know that it’s something many consumers wish to avoid, which is why they do their best not to draw too much attention to it. This situation underscores the importance of doing your homework when it comes to food choices and ensuring they are as healthy as they appear on the surface.

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