The plant-based Impossible Burger's key ingredient has been deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] in what the high-tech food company is calling a 'big win'.
The ingredient - soy leghemoglobin - contains heme, an iron-containing molecule that occurs naturally in every animal and plant. According to the company, it is heme that gives the patty its meaty taste and texture.
The company voluntarily submitted soy leghemoglobin for a GRAS [generally recognized as safe] review to the FDA in 2014, but by 2015, the agency responded with further questions about its safety.
Now the FDA has written to the tech startup, confirming the ingredient is safe to eat, stating: "We have no questions at this time regarding Impossible Foods’ conclusion that soy leghemoglobin preparation is GRAS under its intended conditions of use to optimize flavor in ground beef analogue products intended to be cooked."
Impossible Foods CEO and Founder Dr. Patrick O. Brown, also Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at Stanford University, said: "Getting a no-questions letter goes above and beyond our strict compliance to all federal food-safety regulations.
"We have prioritized safety and transparency from day one, and they will always be core elements of our company culture."
The FDA's 'no questions' letter follows heme being tested on rats - which generated some controversy among the company's vegan followers, who felt the decision was at odds with Impossible Foods' mission to make plant-based food. This lead Dr. O' Brown to publish a statement titled The Agonizing Dilemma of Animal Testing.
Brown, who has been vegan for 14 years, said the core of his company's mission is to 'eliminate exploitation of animals in the food system', as well as reduce the impact of animal agriculture on the environment.
He added: "Among the thousands of animal species surveyed every decade by the World Wildlife Fund, the total number of living individual wild animals today is less than half what it was 40 years ago.
"This wildlife loss is overwhelmingly due to the exploitation of animals for food, including hunting, fishing and especially the replacement of wildlife habitat by animal farming."