Impossible Foods Moves Closer to Selling its Faux Meat in Groceries

July 31, 2019, 8:07 PM UTC

The Impossible Burger, so far only available at restaurants, could finally be making its way to U.S. grocery store shelves, giving Impossible Foods’ chief rival Beyond Meat Inc. a new retail competitor.

Impossible also announced on Wednesday its plans to produce more of the meat-free patties through a new collaboration.

Paving the way for Impossible Foods to sell raw faux meat in groceries, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has amended its rules to call the use of soy leghemoglobin safe as a color additive in imitation beef.

The rule change is effective Sept. 4, however before that objections can still be raised. The original petition filed in December specified that heme could “not exceed 0.8% by weight” of the final product.

“Should no objections be raised, the direct-to-consumer sale of uncooked, red-colored ground beef analogue products containing soy leghemoglobin will be allowed,” the FDA said in a statement.

Ramping up burger production

Separately, the company said it had signed a deal with global food producer OSI Group to expand production. Based in Aurora, Ill., OSI will begin making the Impossible Burger starting next month, adding short-term capacity to Impossible’s own Oakland, California factory. 

“OSI has already installed equipment to make the Impossible Burger, and we’ll start seeing new capacity every week,” Impossible’s senior vice president of Product and Operations Sheetal Shah said in the statement.

The production announcement comes after a months-long shortage of the popular soy-based beef replacement. Impossible Foods recently moved to three, eight-hour shifts from two, 12-hour shifts in July.

Impossible’s patented heme

Soy leghemoglobin, or heme, is the ingredient that gives the Impossible Burger its essential meat-like flavor. Red in hue, it hadn’t previously been formally approved as a safe color additive, meaning retailers couldn’t let individual consumers purchase the uncooked product the way they can buy and bring home raw patties from rival Beyond Meat.

That’s meant Impossible Foods has been limited to selling inside restaurants. It’s offered at large restaurant chains Red Robin and White Castle, and it will be sold in all 7,300 Burger Kings nationwide by the end of the year. The company also has a meatless-sausage partnership with Little Caesars pizza.

“We are in the midst of a revolution in food technology that in the next 10 years will likely lead to more innovations in food and ingredient production than there have been in the past half century,” said Dennis Keefe, director of the Office of Food Additive Safety in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “As these new products and ingredient sources come to the market, the FDA has a responsibility to provide the appropriate regulatory oversight to protect public health by ensuring that these new foods and food ingredients are safe.”

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