Burger King’s Impossible Whopper has provoked a debate over cross-contamination.
The Impossible Whopper features Impossible Foods’ plant-based patty on a build that mirror’s the chain’s standard beef-based option, with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, pickles, and sliced white onions on sesame seed bun. Mayo can be removed to make the option free-from animal products.
However, many vegetarians and those following a plant-based diet say the burger is still not suitable for them – because of how it is cooked.
The Impossible Burger patty from the Impossible Whopper is cooked on the same broiler as regular burgers and chicken – unless a customer specifically asks for it to be prepared separately, according to Chris Finazzo, Burger King’s president in the Americas region
“We use the same cooking method,” Finazzo said. “This product tastes exactly like a Whopper.”
For some, the potential cross-contamination risk is not a major issue, with Ashley Byrne, a campaign director for PETA, saying: “It’s really not about the personal purity of what the products are being cooked next to.
“People are choosing vegan options because they care about animals and the environment. We think that these benefits really override any concerns about cross-contamination.”
For others, this means they won’t eat the sandwich, with one Facebook user saying: “I think it’s good that people aren’t eating beef when they have the Impossible, but I personally don’t want to eat something which may have touched dead flesh.”
Plant-based not vegan
Many vegans will not be eating the sandwich in any case, as the Impossible Burger is plant-based rather than vegan, according to Impossible Foods. This is because in 2017, it was revealed that a key ingredient – soy leghemoglobin aka ‘heme’ – from the brand’s flagship item the Impossible Burger was fed to rats in order to test its safety. In excess of 180 rats were killed as a result of the testing.
CEO Pat Brown reacted to the controversy, publishing a statement titled The Agonizing Dilemma of Animal Testing.
Brown, who has been vegan for more than 15 years, said the core of his company’s mission is to ‘eliminate exploitation of animals in the food system’, as well as reduce the impact of animal agriculture on the environment.
“Among the thousands of animal species surveyed every decade by the World Wildlife Fund, the total number of living individual wild animals today is less than half what it was 40 years ago,” he added. “This wildlife loss is overwhelmingly due to the exploitation of animals for food, including hunting, fishing and especially the replacement of wildlife habitat by animal farming.”