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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

Do You Want Hexane With Your Veggie Burger?

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, food, health, pollution, agriculture, neurotoxin, hexane, veggie burgers, Mother Jones, Cornucopia Institute, Keith Goetzman,

Veggie burgerMany veggie burgers are made using hexane, a pollutant and neurotoxin also found in gasoline, Mother Jones reports, citing a recent study by the Cornucopia Institute. Writes Kiera Butler:

In order to meet the demands of health-conscious consumers, manufacturers of soy-based fake meat like to make their products have as little fat as possible. The cheapest way to do this is by submerging soybeans in a bath of hexane to separate the oil from the protein. Says Cornucopia Institute senior researcher Charlotte Vallaeys, “If a non-organic product contains a soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein, you can be pretty sure it was made using soy beans that were made with hexane.”


These veggie burgers are made with hexane:

Amy’s Kitchen
Boca Burger (conventional)
Franklin Farms
Garden Burger
It’s All Good Lightlife
Morningstar Farms
President’s Choice
Taste Above
Trader Joe’s
Yves Veggie Cuisin

While these veggie burgers are hexane-free:

Boca Burgers “made with organic soy”
Helen’s Kitchen
Morningstar “made with organic”
Superburgers by Turtle Island

The Mother Jones blog post kicked up a lot of comments and questions and led Butler to do a follow-up interview with Vallaeys. The researcher points out that the hexane process is used to make many cooking oils, margarines, and other products. A key question of course, is whether residues from the hexane remain in the food—and Vallaeys concedes that more testing is needed in this realm.

But personally, I don’t need any more testing to convince me that using a gasoline ingredient to soak the fat out of vegetables is a bad idea, and to cut foods that use this process from my diet.

See the full report (pdf) on the Cornucopia website.

While the rest of us are freaking out about our veggie burgers, we might do well to get outraged on behalf of babies, too. Writes Butler:

More worrisome still: According to the report, “Nearly every major ingredient in conventional soy-based infant formula is hexane extracted.”

Sources: Mother Jones, Cornucopia Institute