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What About Quorn?
April 18th, 2010

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Dear John,

What do you think of the new meat substitute made from mushrooms, called Quorn? Do you eat it?

Judy

Judy,

Thanks for your Quorn query.

Quorn is the brand name for a “mycoprotein” products sold as meat substitutes. Quorn products take the form of faux chicken patties, nuggets, cutlets, and imitation ground beef. It is designed to appeal to vegetarians who are looking for protein sources that aren’t meat.

The manufacturer of Quorn is Marlow Foods, a division of the multinational pharmaceutical giant Astra Zeneca, one of the dominant corporations in genetically engineered food. They are telling the public that the food is made from mushrooms. The packaging says the “mycoprotein” in Quorn is “made from natural ingredients” that are “mushroom in origin,” and “made from a small, unassuming member of the mushroom family.” This evokes images of tiny mushrooms growing humbly and peacefully in the Earth.

Actually, though, this is far from the case. Quorn, in fact, is a highly processed food made in giant laboratory vats from a fungus (Fusarium venenatum) which is a mold, not a mushroom. An expert on Fusarium fungus, David M. Geiser of the Pennsylvania State University Fusarium Research Center, told the FDA that calling the Fusarium fungus that is the basis of Quorn foods a mushroom is like “calling a rat a chicken because both are animals.”

A mycologist from Cornell University said that mushrooms are as distantly related to Quorn’s fungus as humans are to jellyfish.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is strongly opposed to Quorn, and has asked the FDA to halt the marketing of Quorn products and to require all Quorn foods to be recalled from market shelves. According to CSPI, quite a number of people have gotten sick after eating the product, typically vomiting several hours after eating the product.

This comes as no surprise to Dr. David A. Morowitz, Clinical Professor of Medicine (gastroenterology) at Georgetown University. “ The data argue compellingly,” he says, “that the mycoprotein derived from Fusarium venenatum is almost certainly gastrotoxic. The risk of its toxicity does not justify its continued use here in the United States.”

“On theoretical grounds alone,” adds Dr. John Santilli, a Bridgeport, Connecticut allergist, “the use of this mold in food is highly dubious. Intentionally increasing consumer exposure to mold through the food supply will only increase the risk of discomfort and adverse reactions in mold-sensitive consumers.”

I’ve never eaten Quorn, and I have no intention of ever trying it. Personally I like to stay with traditional foods that have stood the test of the centuries. Quorn looks to me like another highly processed and deceitfully labeled product that may end up causing health problems, and which shouldn’t be in the food supply in the first place.

This blessed Earth has given us many wonderful foods. I believe our trust is best placed in foods the way Nature intends, not in products concocted in laboratories by multinational corporations trying to exploit the vegetarian market.

In gratitude for Nature’s gifts,

John

These comments are moderated to support respectful, non-commercial, and open-minded dialogue.

7 Responses to “What About Quorn?”

  1. Nita R says:

    I don’t eat these products either. I have heard from people who love them and from people who say that they get sick when they eat them. They have egg whites in them and are a processed food so I wouldn’t eat them.

  2. Lynn says:

    Just now happened upon this and other articles critical of Quorn. I have to say I am shocked, as my husband and I have been enjoying Quorn in its various forms for about 6 or 7 years now with no ill effects. For me, it was pivotal in helping me finally make the plunge into vegetarianism, and I’ve never looked back. I will say that a vegetarian friend did report getting sick after eating it and so I would agree with Debi (above) when she says that different foods can make different people sick. That is no reason to remove the best-tasting meat substitute ever from the market. It also has one of the best macronutrient profiles, when you use the non-breaded varieties: good protein, low carb, low fat.

  3. Cynthia says:

    All of this is very confusing. What I know is that I am not a scientist and at some point I just have to trust someone else and their research. I have just recently been turned onto Quorn and I have to say that I LOVE it. It is so delicious. I am open to hearing what John’s researchers say about this product however it does conflict with the fact that I buy this product at Wholefoods market, whose mission statement is. “We search for the highest quality, least processed, most flavorful and natural foods possible because we believe that food in its purest state — unadulterated by artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings and preservatives — is the best tasting and most nutritious food there is.” I think for now, because I have not had any negative reaction to this product and Wholefoods market supports it, so I will go with my trusted resource. I will keep my mind open to what John said and hopefully more information will come out in the future. I can’t find any other negative comments other than John’s.

  4. Rabeil says:

    I am a biochemistry student and I was researching fungi as meat substitutes when i came across quorn. I have extensively researced it and I think people are blowing this out of proportion. As Rivka has already pointed out, we have a wide range of fermented products that we consume everyday such as cheese, yogurt etc. Just because it isnt grown in fields, it doesnt mean that it isnt healthy. It is true that some people are violently allergic to it but its just a matter of avoiding it if you are like people with nut allergies. You dont need to discourage other people from trying it. This product isnt the first processed food available in the market. I mean look at broiler chicken for crying out loud. Isnt that an example of food production on a massive scale? That doesnt stop us from eating it, does it?
    I think we’re ignoring the real importance of this product… food for those who are starving i.e. if these products have a low price tag esp. for people in third world countries. Look at the bigger picture people…
    The fact that it was labelled as ‘mushroom like’ was so that people could make the connection between fungi and Quorn. It was wrong and misleading, i must agree but from what i’ve read, they have stopped trying to compare it with mushrooms and are calling it a mycoprotein instead, which is what it essentially is.
    I have never tried Quorn or any other meat substitute as they arent readily available where i live, Pakistan. But i would definitely give it a try if i can get my hands on it… i think i’ll have to dig aroung at the supersstore for it and i might get lucky, who knows.

  5. Debi says:

    I have to say that I too disagree with your article! I haven’t eaten meat in over 25 years and my husband hasn’t eaten it since he met me about 22 years ago. We don’t eat it because of our love for animals. My husband and I have tried many analogs over the years (I know some vegetarians are against these products but I’ve never really understood why!) and only recently discovered Quorn products. They are the best tasting faux meats we have ever eaten! No sickness ever after eating any of their products! We love their fake turkey…makes Thanksgiving a bit more traditional; we are amazed at the taste! Do some people get sick from some things…of course! But don’t condemn a product that you’ve never tried! I am extremely allergic to tea tree oil and yet it is probably in hundreds of products. Would I even think of telling people who use it to stop because it’s bad for me? Silly thought! I just read labels! The only bad thing about Quorn is we can rarely find it where we live…Maine…where so many love meat, and anything vegetarian is rare in our local supermarkets! One more important thing; my husband (the chef)just told me that Quorn products do have a warning label about the possibility of an allergic reaction…what more can a company do? Shall peanuts be banned too?

  6. Rivka J says:

    I have read this with interest and as someone who is a very healthy 57 year old vegetarian who has been eating Quorn regularly since its concept many years ago I would like to disagree with your comments. Many meat eaters eat bad food which contains mould, meat can sometimes be deliberately ‘hung’ for many days to the point of putrification to achieve a particular ‘taste’. Many cheeses contain mould. Every food going can be rubbished by some scientist or other and usually are, bad food ‘fads’ run in cycles. Personal opinion is what matters. I’ve known many people get food poisoning because of dodgy meat and fish I have yet to meet anyone who has had a negative reaction to Quorn! My main message is if it’s right for you eat it, but don’t rubbish something if you’ve never tried it.

  7. Kathryn says:

    Thank you for this great article! I have eaten Quorn products three times…each time I became violently ill within 3 hours of eating and had violent vomitting. (OK, so it took 3 times to figure it out…)I was looking for a healthy meat alternative. What a shock to read what this product is actually made from. This product needs to be banned.

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