CSPI Quorn Complaints
Center for Science in the Public Interest

“Quorn” Meat Substitutes Deceptively Labeled, Says U.S. Consumer Group

“Mycoprotein” Ingredient Is Fungus — Not Mushroom

New Web Site, www.quorncomplaints.com Will Log Reports of Adverse Reactions

For Immediate Release:
March 21, 2002

For more information:

Related Links:
Complaint filed with the EU
(Acrobat 8k)

Complaint filed with the UK’s Food Standards Agency
(Acrobat 9k)
Read CSPI’s press release
Read CSPI’s complaint to the FDA
(Acrobat 14k)
Report adverse reactions to Quorn products

WASHINGTON - A health advocacy group, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), today filed complaints with the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency and the European Commission about deceptive labelling and advertising of the Quorn line of fungus-based meat substitutes. Quorn is marketed by Marlow Foods, Montagu Private Equity. CSPI also raised questions about the adequacy of the product’s testing, which did not include adequate tests for allergenicity.

     Although Quorn has been on the market in the United Kingdom for years, it is just now reaching grocery stores elsewhere in Europe and in the United States. CSPI, the leading advocate for food safety in the U.S. and Canada, filed a complaint with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February.

     Despite claims on some labels that the key ingredient in Quorn is “mushroom in origin,” Quorn products contain no mushrooms. Rather, the so-called “mycoprotein” in these products is actually grown in large fermentation vats from Fusarium venenatum, a non-mushroom fungus. On other Quorn packages, the source of mycoprotein is omitted altogether. Quorn’s web site takes the deception even further—and claims falsely that mycoprotein is a “vegetable protein” and a “plant occurring naturally in soil.”

     And, it’s not mushroom—and definitely not a plant or a vegetable.

     “Consumers aren’t surprised to find mushrooms or vegetables in a meat substitute,” CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said. “But Quorn’s mycoprotein has nothing to do with mushrooms, plants, or vegetables. It is a fungus and should be labelled as such. Saying that Quorn’s fungus is in the mushroom family is like saying that jellyfish are in the human family.” If an obscure term like “mycoprotein” is to be used in Quorn’s ingredient listings, says CSPI, packages should be required to disclose clearly the product’s fungal origins.

     “If Marlow Foods wants us to eat its fungus patties, the least they should do is not pretend that the product is made from mushrooms,” said Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at Thames Valley University. “The government should stop this classic example of deceptive labelling.”

     Another concern raised by CSPI is that some of the novel proteins in the mycoprotein might cause allergic reactions. With genetically engineered foods, such as StarLink corn, even minute amounts of individual possibly allergenic proteins have kept products off the market. Quorn’s mycoprotein, by contrast, is not genetically engineered, but is introducing thousands of new proteins into the food supply—and they are being consumed in far larger amounts than the novel proteins in genetically engineered foods. Even though the mycoprotein has apparently not caused a large number of allergic reactions in British consumers, CSPI says health authorities in the U.K., U.S., and Europe should require Montagu Private Equity, to test whether any of the new proteins share the properties of known allergens. Companies typically perform such tests on the new proteins in their genetically engineered products.

     CSPI applauded Quorn’s creators for trying to market a nutritious meat substitute with a low impact on the environment, but insists that it be labelled honestly and studied more thoroughly.

     “You can see why Montagu Private Equity would rather associate its product with mushrooms and vegetables than with fungus, but their marketing problems are no excuse to deceive consumers,” Jacobson wrote.

   CSPI has launched a web-based form for consumers to report any adverse reactions they suspect have been caused from eating Quorn.