Impossible Foods Closes A $75M Investment After Achieving Key Milestones

Barsaba Taglieri
Agosto 9, 2017

The burger, which debuted in 2016, has made fans out of food-royalty, like Chef David Chang of the Momofuku empire, and big-name investors, including Google Ventures, Bill Gates, and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing.

In 2015, Impossible Foods sought approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its "secret sauce" - soy leghemoglobin - a molecule found in most living things that the company recreates in a lab. Now since this company only wants to use natural ingredients and not actual meat, they use soy heme to make their burgers. The protein has not been used in foods before and may be an allergen, the agency said.

Later this month, Impossible Foods will provide this study and additional data to the FDA, including the opinion of the expert panel. Those documents were first shared with the New York Times.

"F.D.A. believes the arguments presented, individually and collectively, do not establish the safety of soy leghemoglobin for consumption. nor do they point to a general recognition of safety."
The FDA has concerns for this substance and they say that, "it has never been consumed by humans and may be an allergen" in documents that were obtained by Times.

A process which Impossible Foods has undergone. The VC-backed food startup intends to resubmit its petition to the FDA. "Rather, we have complied with all regulations and have had constructive sessions with the FDA, a guardian of food safety for the nation", a company spokesperson said.

The lead investor in the round is Singapore-based investment company Temasek. And so far it has served up its burger to high-end restaurants such as Momofuku Nishi in NY and Jardinière in San Francisco.

The plant-based Impossible Burger seemed like the kind of breakthrough in food technology that environmentalists could get behind. "In particular, a panel of food safety experts from three universities has agreed multiple times that the product is safe". The GRAS application Impossible Foods filed with the agency notes that experts considered the soybean leghemoglobin equivalent to other plant and animal hemoglobins commonly consumed. The only problem? The FDA still can't figure out if humans should even be eating it.

She added that the burger is "entirely safe to eat" and "fully compliant with all F.D.A. regulations". Plus, the FDA's approval is not required for new ingredients and companies are allowed run their own tests to determine safety.

"'F.D.A. believes the arguments presented, individually and collectively, do not establish the safety of soy leghemoglobin for consumption, ' agency officials wrote in a memo they prepared for a phone conversation with the company on August 3, 2015, 'nor do they point to a general recognition of safety, '" Strom continues. "Now we know that the FDA had questions about it, but it was put on the market anyway", he told the Times. Getting safety approval from the FDA is a key way for food manufacturers to prove to consumers they have nothing to hide.

The company insists its product is completely safe for human consumption, but the regulators are simply not sure.

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