This week, Impossible Foods received a GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) letter from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in regard to novel ingredient soy leghemoglobin (“heme”), a central component of the Impossible Burger derived from the roots of nitrogen-fixing plants which the company engineers from yeast. In 2015, the FDA expressed that Impossible Foods needed to provide further information about heme in order to receive a GRAS letter. The FDA does not require that foods are tested on animals, but companies—including Impossible Burger, in this instance—can voluntarily engage in animal testing, as it is the most widely recognized method of gaining necessary approvals for novel ingredients (such as caffeine, which was tested on animals before it was commonly consumed). In a statement entitled “The Agonizing Dilemma of Testing on Animals,” dated August 2017, Impossible Foods founder Patrick O. Brown, a biomedical researcher who has been vegan for 14 years, explained the company’s decision to test heme on rats. “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.” The Impossible Burger debuted at select upscale restaurants in 2016 and has since expanded to the menu of nearly 2,500 points of distribution, including 140 locations of White Castle, in-flight on airline Air New Zealand, Applebee’s, The Cheesecake Factory, and 37 Live Nation amphitheaters.
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