A color additive petition submitted by Impossible Foods Inc. requesting the FDA to issue a regulation listing soy leghemoglobin as a color additive for use in such products such as Impossible Burgers has gotten FDA approval.

The regulatory agency is amending the color additive regulations to provide for the safe use of soy leghemoglobin as a color additive in uncooked ground beef substitute products (e.g., vegetable burgers).  Impossible Foods already used soy leghemoglobin to optimize flavor in its plant-based beef substitutes in cooked form, such as burger chains and restaurants.

The company wants to sell uncooked, red-colored ground plant-based beef alternatives containing soy leghemoglobin directly to consumers, which required FDA pre-market approval as a color additive, because the reddish-brown coloring is important to the appearance and marketability of the food as ground beef analogue.

Credit: NTL Photography, via The Conversation

The FDA reviewed the information and data submitted by the company, as well as other relevant information, such as that soy has been used extensively for thousands of years, and concluded that there is no harm from this use of soy leghemoglobin as a color additive.

Upon publication of the final rule in the Federal Register, the color additive petition process allows for a 30-day period to file objections by any person adversely affected. 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 move has been protested by environmental and other NGOs who are opposed to science, along with their trade groups and allied journalists, such as in the New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, and they are likely to try and engineer dominance in the comments section. But it will be difficult to find someone who can show they have been harmed by this.