Search This Blog

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Is Your Veggie Burger Poisoning You?

We don't know how many of you eat veggie burgers, but you probably all know somebody who eats them, as Ruth does from time to time.

It turns out that there are good veggie burgers and bad veggie burgers. A study by the Cornucopia Institute says that non-organic veggie burgers often contains the neurotoxin hexane, a petroleum byproduct that is bad for those who work with it and can cause explosions in wastewater and is an air pollutant.

The bottom line is that you should "look for Boca Burgers "Made with organic soy"; Helen's Kitchen; Morningstar "Made with organic"; Superburgers by Turtle Island; Tofurky and Wildwood."

Here's a report from's Sustainable Food blog. Thanks to Ramin Ganeshram and Jean Paul Vellotti.

With so many recalls of tainted meat it's tempting to think of food safety issues as another reason to eat a vegetarian diet. But sadly, recent news from the Cornucopia Instituterains on that parade as well. Its new report, "Behind the Bean: The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry," reveals that many top-name brands of veggie burgers contain the neurotoxin hexane, a petroleum byproduct listed by the EPA as a hazardous air pollutant.
So what's it doing in our food?
Writing for Mother Jones, Kiera Butler explains that soybeans are submerged in hexane in order to separate the oil from the protein — a trick processors have been using in order to reduce the fat content of the food. There's good and bad news here. The good news is that all products certified as USDA organic are not allowed to contain hexane bathed ingredients. The bad news is that if it's not organic it most likely has hexane-extracted ingredients in it. The report states, "The soy protein ingredients in most nonorganic foods such as vegetarian burgers and nutrition bars are processed with the use of hexane."
In Butler's story, she quotes Cornucopia Institute senior researcher Charlotte Vallaeys who explains that the ingredients to look out for on non-organic foods are soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein. Not only are you getting a dose of it when you eat these foods, but the industry is contributing significantly to air pollution. The report states that two-thirds of hexane emissions in the U.S. are from grain processors and the single largest emitter was an Archer Daniels Midland plant in Illinois. Solae, a major supplier of soy protein ingredients, is not far behind, with one of its plants coming in 7th on the list of top emitters.
Hexane can also cause explosions when released in wastewater and is documented to be hazardous to workers' health, too.
Unfortunately, for those of us eating soy products the EPA doesn't have a requirement for food manufacturers to test for hexane residue and little research has been done on the effects of consuming it. The Cornucopia Institute's report names these products as having hexane-extracted ingredients: Amy's Kitchen; Boca Burger, conventional; Franklin Farms; Garden Burger; It's All Good; Lightlife; Morningstar Farms; President's Choice; Soy Boy; Taste Above; Trader Joe's; and Yves Veggie Cuisine.For hexane free food, instead look for Boca Burgers "Made with organic soy"; Helen's Kitchen; Morningstar "Made with organic"; Superburgers by Turtle Island; Tofurky and Wildwood.
You can read more about hexane in the Cornucopia Institute's report.


  1. Thanks for sharing this most IMPORTANT article!

  2. I work with Amy's and have some news about this issue:
    “Because of concerns around soy protein extracted with hexane, we have eliminated the use of any soy protein ingredient that uses hexane in its processing.

    Only four products (some of our veggie burgers) out of over 170 products have ever contained soy protein concentrate. We have replaced soy protein concentrate in these products with organic tofu. Tofu production is similar to cheese making and uses no unnatural ingredients. To see our tofu being made check out this video:

    Our best selling burger, the California Burger, has never contained soy protein of any kind.

    Amy’s remains a family owned business and we take great care to make healthful foods with organic ingredients. We welcome communication from our customers and invite you to visit us at”

    Andy Berliner, CEO and Co-founder of Amy’s Kitchen

  3. We know -- one MORE thing to worry about when you go to the store...