Last week, food technology company Impossible Foods revealed that it tested its key ingredient—soy leghemoglobin (aka, “heme”)—on rats. In a statement entitled “The Agonizing Dilemma of Animal Testing” dated August 2017, Impossible Foods’ CEO Patrick O. Brown explained his stance on the matter, revealing a systemic issue with the process of receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the safety of uncommon ingredients.
“The core of Impossible Foods’ mission is to eliminate exploitation of animals in the food system and to reduce the enormous destructive impact of the animal farming and fishing industries on the environment, including wildlife and the ecosystems they depend on,” Brown said. The CEO posits that while traditional vegan products are embraced by those willing to follow a plant-based diet, for the millions of meat-eaters around the world, innovative foods—such as the Impossible Burger—are what will make the greatest impact in reducing animal suffering. Thus, Brown (who has been vegan for 14 years) and his team worked to isolate a plant substance—soy leghemoglobin—that evokes the taste of meat.
Brown explained that in testing, his team sought to do the least harm—choosing to use a minimal amount of rats, housed in the best conditions possible, at a laboratory known for humane practices—and hopes that these types of tests will never have to be conducted again. “It is industry standard to perform rat-feeding studies to demonstrate that a food ingredient is not toxic and is safe,” Brown said. “I personally abhor the exploitation of animals not only in the food system but in testing and research,” Brown explained before revealing that he has worked tirelessly to avoid testing on animals during his 30-year career in biomedical research.
“Nobody is more committed or working harder to eliminate exploitation of animals than Impossible Foods,” Brown said. “Avoiding the dilemma was not an option. We hope we will never have to face such a choice again, but choosing the option that advances the greater good is more important to us than ideological purity.”
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