There are two distinct roads to go down when creating a veggie burger. Option one: Create a burger that no one would ever mistake for meat, with hopes of helping vegetarians feel included during cookouts and barbecues without offending their sensibilities. Option two: Create a burger that is so realistic that it’s probably better suited for carnivores, or for vegetarians who really, really wish they still ate meat. Option two was once the road less traveled, but when the Impossible Burger came along, everything changed. The company created a vegetarian burger that “bleeds” just like a real, juicy, half-pounder does, and now, the Food and Drug Administration has decided that it’s totally, 100 percent safe.
This week, the FDA determined that the key ingredient in Impossible Foods’ “bleeding” veggie burger poses no risk to human health, and is “generally recognized as safe.” The nutrient that causes the bleeding effect is heme — it’s an iron-rich compound that occurs naturally in all living things. And as it turns out, it’s the reason that the Impossible Burger turns impossibly blood-red when it’s cooked.
The stamp of approval comes as a relief for Impossible Foods, but by no means a surprise. After all, the folks at the Bill Gates-funded startup have done plenty of in-house research to guarantee the safety of their product, and the burger’s widespread popularity at fast-food chains like White Castle and airlines like Air New Zealand made it seem quite clear that its veggie-meat was safe for consumption. But last year, when Impossible Foods volunteered information about its burger to the FDA, the agency said that the data they received was not enough to “establish the safety” of heme.
Of course, this was enough to send the internet into a tizzy, prompting concerns that bleeding vegetarian burgers were simply too unnatural, and therefore, unsafe to eat.
But now that the FDA has reversed its position, it seems that the coast is clear for Impossible Foods and its next mission.
“We would have been kicking ourself in the foot if we hadn’t already done the research and proven that this was safe,” company CEO Pat Brown told Business Insider. “But it’s great news.”