Fake Meat’s “Safety” Narrative Implodes

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Animal rights activists have long tried to claim that “plant-based” meats are safer than real meat. But a recent outbreak that left at least one person hospitalized destroyed that narrative.

At least 470 people suffered severe digestive problems after consuming plant-based “crumbles” – which are made to imitate taco meat – from a meal kit served by the plant-based company Daily Harvest. 

The contamination left consumers severally ill. One consumer has even filed a lawsuit after falling ill and ending up in the hospital. The patient claimed in the lawsuit that the contamination caused her to become so ill that doctors had to remove her gallbladder. More than 100 other consumers have contacted Marler Clark, the law firm suing Daily Harvest on the patient’s behalf, to consider filing lawsuits of their own. 

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the outbreak, which the agency suspects involved roughly 28,000 contaminated meals. The agency remains unsure of what contaminant is responsible for the outbreak. It has already ruled out listeria, E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, and other typical contaminants as the source.

Daily Harvest’s CEO Rachel Drori said the company is cooperating with the FDA to help broaden the scope of the investigation to confirm which contaminant is responsible. 

Food safety experts have long warned that plants and vegetables are at a higher risk for contamination. Fruits and vegetables poison far more Americans annually than beef or chicken; properly preparing meats at high heat kills pathogens. 

Yet animal rights activists at organizations such as PETA have misled the public to believe that synthetic meats carry none of the risks of real meat. PETA even ran a billboard stating “TOFU Never Caused a Pandemic” — which was quickly debunked by fact checkers who noted that tofu has been the cause of several food poisonings and food safety violations in major facilities. 

Fake meat products lack many of the safety regulations of real meat. In many states, real meat products come with warnings about proper preparation. But fake meat products lack many of those same requirements. 

Moreover, many fake meat products are misleadingly labeled. Products that contain no real meat are called “chicken nuggets” or “chicken wings.” A recent poll revealed that more than 20 percent of Americans reported that they had accidentally purchased a fake meat product thinking it was the real thing. 

The “plant-based” messaging has also led to confusion as many products are not made from stereotypical vegetables. The fake meat company “Quorn” was tied to several allergy outbreaks after consumers with fungus allergies failed to realize that the “plant-based” product they were eating was made from mycoprotein, a fermented fungus protein. Despite the outbreak, Quorn states on its website that its products are “safer than many other sources of protein on the basis of very low prevalence of allergic reaction complaints” — leaving questions as to the safety of other protein alternatives. 

Just like the failed promises of high-quality protein and good taste, fake meat can’t deliver on safety, either.