The Center for Food Safety is raising legal challenge against the Food and Drug Administration, claiming there was not adequate enough testing of the genetically engineered color additive that is used to make the vegan Impossible Burger seem to 'bleed' like a real meat burger would.

Talk about taking something all the way....without safety as a concern.

The Center for Food Safety has filed a legal brief that challenges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval of a color additive that makes the Impossible Burger look like it 'bleeds' as a real beef burger might. In 2019, the FDA approved soy leghemoglobin (heme). It is a color additive that makes the Impossible Foods' plant-based Impossible Burger seem to 'bleed' like a real beef burger would.

The additive is produced in genetically engineered yeast and is based on a protein that is found in roots of soybeans. It also has over a dozen yeast proteins included. The Center for Food Safety purports that the FDA should have required extensive safety testing before approval because the genetically engineered heme is new to the human diet and there are substantial quantities added to the Impossible Burger.

Bill Freese is a science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety. He said that the FDA approved soy leghemoglobin despite not conducting any of the long-term animal studies that are necessary to decide the effects on human health. Effects that should be analyzed include those for cancer or reproductive impairment, as well as other adverse effects that are found in the FDA's Redbook. The Redbook is a guide for food and color additive testing, and when it came to the approval of the heme, long-term effects were not even in question, despite adverse effects being found in short-term rat trials. Those effects include kidney problems, reproductive cycle disruption, reduced uterine weights, anemia biomarkers and reduced clotting ability.

Theoretically, Congress and the FDA established a high bar for approval of color additives since they are only for aesthetic appeal. Theoretically, a color additive can't be approved without the strongest possible evidence of safety, which is an even higher bar than for other food additives. Still, the GE heme as a color additive was improved and is now included in the Impossible Burger, which is widely available across the United States.

Ryan Talbott is a staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety. He said that the FDA's failure to require that Impossible Foods conducts long-term tests means that there is no convincing evidence that the additive is safe.

It's one thing to be an advocate for plant-based eating for health and ethical reasons, but we still need to ensure that the foods are safe. There's no reason to have an additive that mimics the bleeding of an animal in a food many are eating to AVOID the eating of an animal. Particularly if the additive has not been shown to be safe.

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