The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) sent a letter to Nestlé Monday, asking the Swiss-based food giant not to purchase Quorn, a line of frozen-meat substitutes shaped from a vat-grown protein product containing the fungus Fusarium venenatum.

Nestlé is one of several companies bidding for Premier Food’s Quorn unit, The Guardian newspaper reported.

CSPI, the U.S.-based nonprofit nutrition and food safety watchdog group, has waged a long campaign against Quorum, urging the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its “generally recognized as safe” designation or require it to be labeled as a potential allergen.

CSPI says products made with Fusarium venenatum can cause vomiting, diarrhea and anaphylactic reactions in some people with mold allergies.

Quorn, according to its website, is an all-natural meat-free product line available in the U.K. since 1985 and in the U.S. since 2002.  The company says it is the best-selling meat-free brand sold in natural food stores. 

The product is fermented in vats and then the chicken-flavored paste is fashioned to look like patties, nuggets, tenders, roasts, cutlets and meatballs.  It is marketed as a “mycoprotein.” 

In 2003, CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson published a letter in the journal Allergy characterizing the adverse reactions of 284 Quorn consumers and CSPI maintains a website to collect such reports.  A subsequent article in the American Journal of Medicine reported that, according to a CSPI-commissioned telephone survey in Britain, a higher percentage of people believe they are sensitive to Quorn than to shellfish, milk, peanuts, wheat or other common allergens.

 “It was clearly a mistake for food safety regulators in Europe, the United States, and Australia to approve Quorn for human consumption in the first place,” Jacobson said in a press announcement Monday.  “It would be a real tragedy for a major food company like Nestlé to start marketing foods made with this harmful ingredient on a bigger scale. There’s so much concern about allergic reactions to conventional foods, so it’s especially inappropriate to broaden the marketing of an unnecessary and novel powerful allergen.”

 U.K.-based Premier Foods purchased the Quorn line from Marlow Foods five years ago. 

CSPI says Quorn’s manufacturer used to claim that its signature ingredient was “mushroom based.”   The company’s website now describes Fusarium venenatum as an edible fungus “like mushrooms, morels, or truffles.”

CSPI argues that Fusarium venenatum is quite unlike mushrooms, and “is actually a form of mold–some of which are edible and some not.” 

“We have so many safe, sustainable, and wholesome fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to enjoy on their own and from which to make meat substitutes,” Jacobson said in the press announcement.  “Why resort to vat-grown, allergenic mold? To me, Quorn seems better suited to dystopian science fiction than health food stores.”  

  • So innovators and consumers aren’t allowed to produce and buy foods just because CSPI thinks it’s gross? I think foods made from dead animals are gross and we know those cause illness all the time. Should we take all the other foods that are allergens off the market too? Sigh. CSPI needs to find something better to do.
    Quorn is a perfectly safe (and delicious) product for anyone who doesn’t have specific allergy to Fusarium. It would be completely appropriate for CSPI or any other group to request that an allergy warning be added Ouorn products, just as other allergens are labeled.
    No, I don’t work for Quorn or have anything to do with them at all, aside from occasionally enjoying their products.

  • Do you know what Fusarium is? If you did, I highly doubt you would be ingesting it!

  • Helen

    Better than digesting the decomposing corpses of animals and fish, that’s for sure!

  • Holly

    Very nice, Helen! I love Quorn, I have been fading out my use of soy to move over to Quorn over the past few years. Very innovative alternative for those who choose not to eat animals.

  • Paul

    About time the Quorn was made to look at its ingredients. I will never by Quorn products mearly because of the fact that they contain eggs or egg products. It is annoying to find the Quorn is becoming the ‘norm’ as the veggie alternative in lots of resturants and cafes. Lots of others contain eggs too. But it is not necessary.

  • Eartha

    It is a shame that quorn is bound together with egg products. I haven’t bought any since turning vegan. Surely there must be a suitable alternative to egg to bind the product together. Also I don’t welcome the production of quorn in the UK being controlled by Nestle. I’m pretty sure that once in the hands of a multinational any semblance of care and quality will soon be reducuced to the lowest common denominator.

  • Yes–people have allergies! Don’t ruin it for those of us who don’t! It is one of the best vegetarian meat substitutes we have–very versatile for recipes. I’d like to see the “steak” and deli slices in the US. Just put an allergy warning on the label.

  • Smart one

    quorn is a great product shall we not eat anything because others have allergies, I think not. I believe that Nestles should not get their hands on this company, because they will ruin it

  • pennyjenny

    The texture of Quorn is just so much better than the stringy, chewy stuff Morningstar makes.

  • AJ

    I won’t claim to know all the in’s and out’s of CSPI or their motivation to go after the Quorn brand products but it seems fairly obvious they have other motivations other than the safety of Quorn as a safe food. I’ve been eating Quorn since the ’90’s and never once had any type of reaction. Sure, others might, so put a warning on there and be done with it. It won’t stop me from buying the product again. I actually wish we had ‘more’ of it in the US. I really miss the products they have available in the UK that I used to enjoy when I lived there. If anyone knows of a good way to have them shipped please let me know.