The FDA officially recognized soy leghemoglobin as safe on Monday. Plant-based protein is the essential ingredient that allows Bay Area startup Impossible Foods’ plant-based Impossible Burger to “bleed”, just like a beef burger.
“Obviously we would have liked it to happen a lot faster. “
Soybean leghemoglobin is a soy-derived version of heme, an iron-rich compound found in hemoglobin that gives meat and blood its red color. In the case of the plant-based Impossible Burger, the compound is derived from soybeans and genetically modified yeast.
GRAS recognition for this ingredient is a “big win” for Impossible Foods, reports Business Insider, after four years of attempts to achieve this status and much criticism from groups like Friends of the Earth in the meantime. But the successful recognition of the GRAS company is nothing new for insiders.
“We’re hardly surprised,” Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, told Business Insider.
“We would have kicked ourselves in the foot if we hadn’t already done the research and proven it to be safe,” Brown continues. “But that’s great news.”
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Impossible Foods originally sought GRAS recognition four years ago, but the FDA responded with further questions, noting that the data submitted was not sufficient to establish the safety of heme for human consumption. The company withdrew its submission in 2015 and re-filed additional data last year.
“Obviously we would have liked it to happen a lot faster,” Brown told Fortune.
Although it was not necessary to obtain FDA approval to produce and sell the burgers in the United States, Impossible Foods did so voluntarily in an effort to be transparent with its consumers.
“This particular heme protein is new to the food system,” Brown told Fortune. “That’s why we felt it was important for us to do the safety tests. “
Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger is already available in more than 3,000 locations nationwide and in Hong Kong, including Momofuku Nishi restaurant in New York City and burger chains Fatburger and Umami Burger.
The company quickly rose to prominence after its inception in 2011, thanks in large part to support from investors such as Bill Gates and Google Ventures.
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