The Dangers of Quorn Products You Should Know
If you frequently eat meat substitutes, look out for Quorn products, or you may suffer their sometimes-serious side effects.
Updated June 12, 2018
Mycoprotein, the novel ingredient in Quorn-brand frozen meat substitutes that’s made from processed mold (Fusarium venenatum), can cause serious and (possibly, even fatal) allergic and other reactions.
Though until recently the manufacturer’s (Marlow Foods) advertising and labeling implied that the product is “mushroom protein” or “mushroom in origin,” the mold (or fungus) from which it is made does not have much to do with mushrooms. Rather, the mold is grown in liquid solution in large tanks.
Quorn has been sold in the United Kingdom since the 1990s and has also been sold in continental Europe. Quorn products have been marketed in the United States since 2002 and in Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand more recently. The chunks of imitation meat are nutritious, but the prepared foods in which they are used may be high in fat or salt.
Some consumers are sensitive to Quorn products, resulting in vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and, less often, hives and potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions. Many people have gone to emergency rooms for treatment of Quorn-related reactions. In 2013, an 11-year-old boy who had asthma died after eating a Quorn Turk’y Burger.
The British and American governments acknowledge that some people react to Quorn foods, but so far have rejected CSPI’s recommendations to require Quorn foods to bear a label warning of possible severe adverse reactions. (In fact, when Quorn-containing “vegetarian” products are served at restaurants, cafeterias, and other foodservice locations, there may not even be a label to inform consumers that they are eating Quorn foods.)
However, starting in 2017, as a result of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) intervening in a class action case against Quorn, labels for all Quorn products sold in the United States must state, “Mycoprotein is a mold [member of the fungi family]. There have been rare cases of allergic reactions to products that contain mycoprotein.”
Meatless foods can be very healthful, but CSPI recommends that consumers choose brands other than Quorn. Consumers who have been sickened by Quorn foods may file an adverse-reaction report with CSPI and with the Food and Drug Administration Medwatch program. An analysis based on the first over 2,000 reports to CSPI was published in 2018.