Austin, TX – The United States CSPI (Center for Science Public Interest), due to growing public awareness and education over the severe health hazards mold poisoning, is suing Quorn Foods and Whole Foods Market over a dangerous food additive. The first evidence that Quorn causes severe vomiting and diarrhea came in 1977 from a clinical study conducted by the developer of Quorn but apparently it wasn’t enough to stop manufacturing this substance for the European market, and now worldwide. Several complaints have been filed against the company from customers citing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, asthma, and even signs of anaphylaxes.
Quorn, sold in Britain since 1995, was introduced in the United States in 2002 as a ‘healthy’ alternative to meat. Its packaging has named their main ingredient “mycoprotein;” which the label describes as being related to mushrooms, morels and truffles.
Faux Meat from Fusarium Venenatum?
Because this is where Quorn’s mystery deepens. What really is mycoprotein? According to Quorn’s packaging, mycoprotein as “mushroom in origin.” But the substance is not mushroom at all. Instead, it is “the processed cellular mass that is obtained from the filamentous fungus Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684,” according to Marlow’s application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for sale in America. Fusarium venenatum is known for producing mycotoxins.
In fact, the word ‘venenatum’ is Latin for venomous. Quorn’s manufacturer, Marlow Foods, claims that the strain of fungus it uses does not produce toxins. But, after their original claims of finding a mushroom protein growing in a field in Buckinghamshire, England, an affluent suburb of London, one never knows what to believe. This toxigenic mold grows from the dirt and it can be seasoned to taste any way one likes it.
This is in far contrast to the Europeans’ disregard for the American genomics and our genetically engineered produce, aptly named “Frankenfruit.” Most Yanks would shy away from such disgusting likes as mold for dinner. This goes to show that ignorance is so shallow. But still, science does matter in the case of things as disgusting as mold, despite what well paid governing authorities might tell us.
In March, Professor David M. Geiser of the Fusarium Research Center at Pennsylvania State University told the FDA that calling Fusarium venenatum, the fungus that is the basis of Quorn foods, a mushroom is like “…calling a rat a chicken because both are animals.” Quorn’s fungus is actually a mold, according to Geiser.
“The data argue compellingly that the mycoprotein derived from Fusarium venenatum is almost certainly gastrotoxic,” said Dr. David A. Morowitz, a Clinical Professor of Medicine (gastroenterology) at Georgetown University. “The risk of its toxicity does not justify its continued use here in the United States, absent additional safety studies.” In other words, Quorn is a kind of fungus, and it’s not at all a kind of mushroom.
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan in May, CSPI urged the agency to order Quorn off the market. Although the FDA has been investigating cases of adverse reactions to Quorn, CSPI said the agency is moving too slowly and is leaving consumers unprotected from a dangerous new food product. CSPI also told the FDA of a telephone survey it had commissioned of 1,000 British consumers which found that almost 5 percent of people who had eaten Quorn products experienced vomiting, hives, or other symptoms. That percentage is higher than the percentage of consumers allergic to peanuts, dairy, and other major food allergens–and much higher than the adverse-reaction rate (1 out of 146,000) claimed by Quorn’s maker, U.K.-based Marlow Foods.
“Many of the people who contacted us experienced such severe symptoms that they needed medical attention, including treatment by family physicians or at hospital emergency rooms,” CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson wrote to McClellan. “One can be certain that CSPI has received reports from only a tiny fraction of consumers sickened by Quorn.”
CSPI also told the agency of Marlow Foods’ plans to market in Europe “mycoscent,” a salt-substitute derived from the same fungus. According to a press release from S. Black, a British food company, mycoscent “imparts a salty taste without adding sodium” and “is easy to use in a very wide range of products.” Conceivably, said Jacobson, the company could try to get mycoscent used in virtually any processed food in Britain or in the U.S. “If this dangerous fungus starts showing up as an anonymous ‘natural flavor’ in foods, even consumers who are trying hard to avoid mycoprotein may get sick,” Jacobson said.
In the past year, CSPI has filed several complaints about the safety and labeling of Quorn. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by CSPI, the FDA turned over a company-sponsored double-blind trial which demonstrated that several percent of volunteers experienced gastrointestinal symptoms after eating mycoprotein. Shortly thereafter, CSPI first called for a nationwide recall of Quorn products, but the FDA failed to act. But perhaps this is because there could possibly be another plan in progress; and that is to approve these products that sit here in limbo at the hands of the FDA.
However, the FDA, thought enough of Marlow Foods to approve the fungus late last year, admitting it into a class of foods “generally recognized as safe.” But some scientists are concerned that mycoprotein was not adequately tested, and that it could cause a host of allergic reactions in the population if it becomes popular. More than that, some nutritionists and Quorn’s competitors say that at the very least Marlow Foods should tell consumers what Quorn really is — it’s extremely deceptive, they say, to carry on like it’s a mushroom when it’s actually mold.
What is Fusarium?
Fusarium has received some very negative publicity lately as a member of the toxic mold family and it is understandable why Marlow Foods would want to hide this fact, but it is an outright lie to call it anything else than it is. Another deceptive method they have used to sway ignorant consumers is to call their fermentation process similar to ‘making yogurt’ as the company states on their website. This is another misrepresentation, as yogurt is manufactured with a small amount of bacteria, not mold.
That’s why Jacobson has petitioned the FDA to require that Quorn products not say “mushroom in origin” and instead state that mycoprotein is a “fungus.” In addition to his concerns about the labeling, CSPI’s Jacobson is also worried about the safety of Quorn. The FDA did not perform its own tests on the food, and it instead relied upon Marlow’s tests of mycoprotein.
Fusarium is a known mycotoxin producing mold and even if the company claims that this genus doesn?t. Long term results have never been proven. Jacobson thinks these preliminary tests were not comprehensive, especially since he says that he has found several documented cases of adverse reactions caused by mycoprotein. According to a May press release, there have been hundreds of documented cases in the United States where people have become ill from Quorn.
With all of the information on mycotoxin producing molds and food, it’s ruthless to rely on an ignorant public for the sake of profits when the end result may be pathogenic producing fungi with insidious results. The truth always comes out in the end; of course always with certain profitable groups trying to suppress evidence. Even Dr. Emil Bardana, a physician who is known as a skeptic among prestigious environmental physicians who testifies against ill people from the effects of mycotoxicosis for insurance companies, even admits that eating certain fungi can make humans sick.
The FDA and authorities in the United Kingdom forced Marlow Foods to change the labeling of Quorn foods, which had falsely claimed that mycoprotein was ‘mushroom in origin’, ‘mushroom protein’, or ‘a small, unassuming member of the mushroom family’, even though its made from a non-mushroom processed mold. The FDA has been investigating reports of adverse reactions to Quorn, but CSPI has repeatedly criticized the agency for the glacial pace of its investigation and for allowing its sale in the first place.
Marlow Foods is wholly owned by drug giant AstraZeneca, although AstraZeneca is trying to sell it. The center also wants its suit to be certified as a class-action case.