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Errors, “experts” and hidden agendas: Keeping Consumer Reports accountable

By Rachel Konrad, Chief Communications Officer, Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods deeply respects a free and independent media. We encourage journalists and all consumers to do their research on the food they eat.

Similarly, when a generally trusted media outlet botches the facts, we correct the record so consumers can have as much information as they need to make smart choices.

Consumer Reports published an article online on Aug. 29, 2019 (expected for October 2019 print editions). The article included several errors of fact and misleading statements about Impossible Foods.

Regarding soy leghemoglobin(opens in a new tab), the special ingredient that makes the Impossible Burger meaty and craveable, Consumer Reports said that the “FDA has not conducted any independent tests to confirm the compound’s safety.” In fact, a panel of the nation’s top food-safety experts reviewed test data and unanimously concluded in 2014 that soy leghemoglobin is generally recognized as safe.

In December 2017, the FDA published Impossible Foods’ extensive test data online(opens in a new tab) so that scientists and the public could fully scrutinize and understand soy leghemoglobin. After this extensive and time-consuming independent, public review, in July 2018 the FDA recognized our key ingredient as safe.(opens in a new tab)

In addition to the recognition of safety by the FDA, the nation’s food-safety watchdog, the respected academic publication International Journal of Toxicology published this peer-reviewed study on safety of soy leghemoglobin(opens in a new tab). Another respected academic publication, Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, published this peer-reviewed study on potential risks of allergy and toxicity of Soy Leghemoglobin(opens in a new tab).

Farcical “experts”

Consumer Reports quotes Dana Perls saying “rats fed soy leghemoglobin in the company’s safety study developed changes in their blood chemistries that could indicate kidney or other health problems — issues that require follow-up.” That claim is completely fabricated and comes from someone who is laughably far from being an “expert” on the subject.

Dana Perls is not a scientist. She’s a student of city planning and a “senior food and agriculture campaigner(opens in a new tab)” at the anti-GMO activist group with the ludicrously misleading name “Friends of the Earth.” A responsible news organization and legitimate consumer watchdog group would have an independent scientist with no political agenda review the publicly available data, available on FDA’s website, before quoting an unqualified, anti-GMO fundamentalist.

Most important, Perls’ comment is maliciously false. Researchers found no significant differences in blood chemistry attributable to leghemoglobin. In fact, rigorous test results showed(opens in a new tab) no adverse effects from consumption of our heme protein at levels far in excess of what could ever be consumed by humans eating our product.

To repeat: Based on multiple reports from independent researchers, there was no overall effect on health, no cancer and no reproducible effects on histology — even when the rats were fed huge heme doses. For more on the difficult decision to conduct an animal test for regulators, please see this blog post(opens in a new tab).

Consumer Reports also suggests “that heme iron may contribute to the increased risk of colon cancer and other health problems that have been associated with red meat.” In fact, heme is one of the most studied molecules in science. While some studies have shown a possible link between patterns of animal meat consumption and cancer, none show that heme (as opposed to any of the other compounds enriched in mammalian meat) is linked to cancer or any negative health consequences. In independent studies in which rats were fed huge heme doses, there was no overall effect on health, no cancer and no reproducible effects on histology.

Reality: Heme poses no health risks. Quite the contrary: Heme is essential for life on Earth. It’s the molecule that carries oxygen in your blood and it’s an essential component of the system that burns calories for energy in every cell; without heme, you die. And you already consume heme every single day in virtually every food you eat. Please see this report for more details(opens in a new tab).

Finally, we’d like to request that Consumer Reports disclose its anti-GMO agenda in full transparency, and the biases of its activist employees. Anti-GMO activist Michael Hansen(opens in a new tab) is a “senior scientist” at Consumers Reports. Hansen may be qualified to review toasters and hair gel, but he has no formal training in chemistry, biotechnology, medicine, food safety, toxicology or public health. He works closely with Non-GMO Project, GMO-Free USA, Moms Across America(opens in a new tab) (an anti-GMO vendor of untested, unregulated quack remedies), Friends of the Earth, and the Canadian anti-GMO group ETC Group, among others. For years Hansen and fellow anti-GMO ideologues have been waging a PR war against GMOs — whether in vaccines, insulin, cheese or more recently the Impossible Burger.

In addition to correcting the errors of fact above, we’re asking Hansen and Consumer Union to reconsider their outdated and absolutist opposition to GMOs(opens in a new tab). In fact, GMOs are ubiquitous in today’s food supply and play a major role in making the food system sustainable and scalable(opens in a new tab).

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