Update: As plenty of commenters noted, the products discussed in this article aren’t vegan, contrary to what my post originally stated. The Quorn products that have been making people sick do contain dairy and eggs. (And they do still contain the factory-grown fungus that’s making people sick.)
If you’re skeptical of vegetarian meat products, stories of Quorn‘s frozen “Chick’n” products might scare you back to grass-fed beef: The fungus-based protein used in their vegetarian chicken is making people sick, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wants you to know about it. According to their reports, there are several hundred documented cases of consumers experiencing adverse reactions to the veggie meat; in some cases, quite extreme. Which seems like good enough proof to me that the best way to figure out what’s good or bad to eat is just to steer clear of processed food.
CSPI is a watchdog group that regularly warns the public about unhealthy food products, and they’re urging the FDA to either pull Quorn products or force them to include a warning label, which are made out of corn fungus, due to hundreds of accounts of bad allergic reactions. MSNBC combed through their list of stories for some of the worse, including this:
In a letter to the FDA, CSPI’s executive director Michael Jacobson described several accounts in detail, including the case of a 20-year-old man Texas man who said he began to feel nauseous soon after eating Quorn’s Chik’n Nuggets and then blacked out, fell, and hit his head.
Also detailed was the case of a 75-year-old Maryland woman who, four hours after consuming a Quorn Chik’n patty, began vomiting uncontrollably while at a Les Miserables performance, passed out and eventually ended up in the emergency room treated with an anti-nausea medication.
And another man had a similarly scary account:
Matt Ernst started worrying when his face swelled up and turned deep red. Panic hit when his throat began to feel tighter and tighter, till he was gasping for air…Figuring that Ernst was having an allergic reaction, his girlfriend handed him some Benadryl. It didn’t take long for the antihistamine to take hold and for Ernst’s throat to begin to open up.
Quorn’s meatless chicken products contain “mycoprotein,” which is extracted from fungus. Of course, fungus itself isn’t inherently evil (mushrooms, anyone?), but this processed version can do the above to some people. The FDA seems to feel that there’s still not enough documented evidence that Quorn deserves a food safety warning, but until they do, it seems the smart thing to do would be to stick with organic tempeh, tofu, and other minimally processed sources of protein if you’re avoiding meat.
I wont go as far as to say that this is proof that eating meat is healthier than being vegetarian or vegan, but if your choice to avoid animal products has anything to do with health, then you should stick with the same principle that healthy meat-eaters follow: DON’T EAT PROCESSED FOOD. Just because it doesn’t contain meat doesn’t mean it’s good for you.