Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Nightmare ingredients of Bill Gates’s Impossible Burger


JUST as a review suggests that processed foods can be harmful to every part of our body, fake meat development is being hyped to the max. Billions are being pumped into an industry that uses tons of the herbicide glyphosate to protect its base ingredient soy from weeds, and production could not only cause more greenhouse gas than traditional farming but the long-term effect on our health is completely unknown. Bill Gates, the biggest farmland owner in the US, is a major fake meat investor and has pumped money into at least six fake food companies, instead of focusing on traditional farming.

A review of several studies involving 10million people showed that ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are linked with myriad health problems, mainly due to their trans fats and sugar content and lack of vitamins. Mass-produced bread, ready meals, crisps, cakes, biscuits, and sugary cereals were linked with 32 physical and mental health problems. Sleep, anxiety, depression, cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, asthma, type 2 diabetes, gut and bowel problems such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are all on the list.

The researchers, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, said: ‘No reason exists to believe that humans can fully adapt to these products. The body may react to them as useless, or harmful to most – perhaps all – body systems; its systems may become impaired or damaged depending on their vulnerability and the amount of ultra-processed food consumed.’

Fake meat is a UPF too and its contents should be a red flag according to food writer and journalist Joanna Blythman. She looked and tasted the ‘Impossible Burger’, a Bill Gates investment, marketed in the US to ‘make meat redundant’. Its ingredients are pure sci-fi but made to sound natural, with water as the main component. One patty also contains, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavours, soy leghemoglobin (legH), yeast extract, salt, soy protein isolate, konjac gum, xanthan gum, vitamins, and zinc.

Ms Blythman says the proteins, textured wheat protein, potato protein, and soya protein isolate, are all powdered derivatives, extracted using hi-tech chemical and physical methods, the exact process kept a ‘commercial’ secret. (Hiding any process never bodes well.) Coconut oil should be redemptive and is promoted as raising good cholesterol, but this coconut oil is compromised as it has been subject to a harsh refining process. Xanthan gum was designed to thicken the drilling mud in the oil industry and both konjac and xanthan are gelling agents, industrial hydrocolloid gums used to improve shelf-life. They are included to absorb the water and glue together ingredients that naturally would not bond. Natural flavour is a misnomer. Although the process begins with real ingredients, the result is achieved using advanced fermentation techniques that involve genetic modification (GM). Manmade flavours are used to replace real flavours destroyed by harsh manufacturing processes. They also mask unpleasant tastes, like that of the bitter soy protein isolate. Yeast extract is added to mimic the taste of browned meat, and vitamins to replace the range found in real beef but missing in the fake version.

The most worrying ingredient is soy leghemoglobin, which puts the Impossible Burger in the UPF bracket. It is a genetically engineered form of the heme iron found in the root nodules of soybean plants, and gives fake meat its bloody, meat-like taste and colour. Genetically engineered and grown in a vat, lab meat needs a nutrient-rich ‘serum’ to grow, comprising sugars, probably from corn, amino acids made from corn or soybeans, and animal blood. The blood that all fake meat needs is a product called foetal bovine serum (FBS), made from blood extracted from the live foetuses of slaughtered pregnant cows. There’s nothing ethical about this; it has not been approved as safe to consume either.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told the manufacturer, Impossible Foods Inc, that they had not demonstrated the safety of this key ingredient, but despite this the fake burger has made its way into Burger King as the Impossible Whopper, and on to supermarket shelves in Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, and Asda.

What do we know about its effect on our health? Between 2003 and 2018, Illinois prison inmates were fed a meat-free, ‘planet-saving’ diet loaded with imitation foods containing soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate with soy flour added to baked goods. The women stopped menstruating after a few months, so it was removed from their diet. The men developed digestive problems – pain after eating, diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence, debilitating thyroid problems, heart arrythmias, erectile dysfunction, and they began to grow breasts.

Beyond Meat, founded in 2009, who supply McDonald’s with their vegan burger, are another of the junk food, plant-based meat alternative producers sponsored by Bill Gates, who is driving fake food consumption and production. Other companies are Memphis Meats, who grow meat in a lab, Ginkgo Bioworks, who develop custom-built microbes for the food and other industry, Pivot Bio, who produce sustainable agriculture products including plant-based meat alternatives, and Hampton Creek Foods, who manufacture plant-based food products and meat alternatives.

Research into the environmental impact of producing fake food suggests manufacturing is not as green as it is made out to be. Sustainalytics, who gauge companies’ sustainability, said in 2021 that fake food manufacturers were opaque about their emissions.

According to environmental activist and food sovereignty advocate Vandana Shiva: ‘Industrial food systems have destroyed the biodiversity of the planet both through the spread of monocultures, and through the use of toxics and poisons that are killing bees, butterflies, insects, birds, and leading to the sixth mass extinction. 

‘Biodiversity-intensive and poison-free agriculture, on the other hand, produces more nutrition per acre while rejuvenating the planet. It shows the path to Zero Hunger in times of climate change. 

‘The industrial agriculture and toxic food model have been promoted as the only answer to economic and food security. However, globally, more than a billion people are hungry. More than three billion suffer from food-related chronic diseases. 

‘Industrial agriculture is based on fossil-fuel intensive, chemical-intensive monocultures, and produces only 30 per cent of the food we eat despite using 75 per cent of farmed land. Meanwhile, small, biodiverse farms using 25 per cent of that land provide 70 per cent of the food.

‘At this rate, if the share of industrial agriculture and industrial food in our diet is increased to 45 per cent, we will have a dead planet. One with no life and no food.’

Food ‘innovator’ Pat Brown, CEO and founder of Impossible Foods, declared that food tech would beat farming knowhow. He said: ‘If there’s one thing that we know, it’s that when an ancient unimprovable technology counters a better technology that is continuously improvable, it’s just a matter of time before the game is over. I think our investors see this as a $3trillion opportunity.’

There is good news for real food enthusiasts: after a promising financial start, the fake food industry is failing in some quarters, despite celebrity endorsements and the financial backing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kim Kardashian. For example Beyond Meat was valued at $11.7billion in 2019 but slumped to £981million in 2023. Fake meat is not cheap either. Last year two Beyond Burger patties at Tesco cost £4 while four of their own-brand beefburgers were £2.59. Beyond Meat cost £17.70 a kilo while real meat, from real cows, farmed by real farmers, was £5.70 per kilo.

What began as a revolution is turning into a revolt with consumers seeing through the dishonest marketing and questioning whether 20-plus ingredients can really be classed as green or healthy. After all, consumer demand for natural foods has increased alongside nutritional awareness.

Perhaps the last word should go to Vandana Shiva, who said: ‘Real food gives us a chance to rejuvenate the earth, our food economies, food sovereignty and food cultures. Food is not a commodity. It is not “stuff” put together mechanically and artificially in labs and factories. Food is life.’

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Sally Beck
Sally Beck
Sally Beck is a freelance journalist with 30 years of experience in writing for national newspapers and magazines. She has reported on vaccines since the controversy began with the MMR in 1998.

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