Food safety challenges regarding plant-based meat alternative

Author
Jana Jacimovic

Category
Allergens - gluten , Microbiology

The safety and regulatory procedures of plant-based meat alternatives have recently been questioned. Many food safety experts advise against regularly consuming plant-based meat due to the possible presence of allergens, anti-nutrients, and thermally generated carcinogens. 

 

Consumer’s increased desire for meat substitutes may be traced back to concerns about topics such as eliminating animal cruelty, lowering the environmental effect, and enhancing one's general health. People love the flavor and feel of meat, but for ethical or health concerns, they want to avoid ingesting animal products. Furthermore, concerns about food safety and the environment have evolved into global problems requiring innovative answers. Alternative protein sources are urgently needed since livestock production is becoming unsustainable. Plant-based meat is just one of the examples of the meat alternative options available now. While plant-based meats are becoming more popular, there are numerous questions concerning their safety and furthermore, the regulatory measures may be complicated and complex. In general, such meat alternatives are "highly-processed" foods, which many nutritionists and food safety experts believe are best not to be frequently consumed for a variety of reasons. At the moment, there are several brands and varieties of plant-derived imitation meats on the market, and they are eaten every day all over the globe. The food sector is reacting to consumer demand for meat alternatives. But are they safe?      

Plant-based meat ingredients    

Soy protein, pea protein, and wheat gluten are the most often utilized plant protein replacements, with rice, potato starch, mung bean, and flavorings used to fill functional gaps (Vasan 2021). Furthermore, other components designed to mimic the flavors, colors, and texture of meat, as well as to provide nutritional advantages, are being added to make the final product.  For example, chewy textures may be achieved using wheat gluten, mung bean, or rice proteins while the leghemoglobin, a protein generated in soybean root nodules, is occasionally used to reproduce the red look of flesh, and titanium dioxide is utilized to brighten and whiten the appearance of imitation chicken (CIFS 2021).    

Challenges and concerns    

Meat and poultry products have extensive food safety data, shelf-life data, and prediction models for food protection, but innovative plant-based foods do not. For these reasons, with novel foods, new challenges and concerns come. First, presence of physical hazards is highly possible given that any highly processed food may include foreign matter such as glass or metal (CIFS 2021). Following, such food products are not suitable for some consumers who may be allergic to certain ingredients. Pea proteins, for example, used in highly processed meat substitutes, may cause peanut allergy in certain individuals. Eating plant-based meat leads to a larger intake of concentrated forms of pea- and other plant-protein isolates than in typical traditional diets, which may produce allergy responses not only in persons that are generally allergic to these ingredients but also in persons who have never had difficulties eating these plant proteins before. Lastly, some studies have shown that consumption of novel proteins on a regular basis may be


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