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Plant-based meat company receives FDA approval on key ingredient

TAGS: Business
Soy leghemoglobin carries protein heme that makes product "bleed."

Impossible Foods announced this week that it has received approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for one of the key ingredients in its plant-based meat. 

Impossible Foods makes meat through a combination of plant-based ingredients. A key ingredient is soy leghemoglobin, a protein that carries “heme,” which is an iron-containing molecule that occurs naturally in every animal and plant. Heme enables the Impossible Burger to satisfy meat lovers’ cravings through its ability to “bleed” like real meat would, according to the company. Impossible Foods genetically engineers and ferments yeast to produce the soy leghemoglobin.

Before issuing the approval, FDA reviewed comprehensive test data about soy leghemoglobin to assess its status as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). In standard process, FDA posted the full, 1,066-page submission from Impossible Foods on its website for public review. FDA researchers also reviewed the comments of top food safety experts, who unanimously concluded that soy leghemoglobin is safe to eat and compliant with all federal food safety regulations.

“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,” FDA stated in a letter to Impossible Foods.

Impossible Foods chief executive officer and founder Dr. Patrick O. Brown, who is 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.”

In the letter, FDA also noted that soy leghemoglobin could be considered a “color additive” in some potential future applications. FDA has a separate regulatory process for approving the use of food additives specifically for color, and Impossible Foods is preparing to engage in that process to ensure that it has maximum flexibility as its products and business continue to evolve.

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