The FDA won’t call this $80M veggie burger safe — and that’s delicious

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The city’s least-delicious hamburger coughed up a delicious irony this week. We learned that the Food and Drug

The city’s least-delicious hamburger coughed up a delicious irony this week. We learned that the Food and Drug Administration declined to say that the laboratory-produced key ingredient of the meatless Impossible Burger — which is supposed to taste and smell and “bleed” like beef — is safe for human consumption.

How rich is this? A product that’s aimed at weaning us off supposedly guts- and artery-destroying, environment-ravaging meat in favor of a “healthier” alternative can’t pass muster with the federal agency that looks after our health.

The FDA didn’t ban the Impossible Burger. You can still buy them around town, at places like David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi, as well as Saxon + Parole and Bareburger. But the agency’s unexpected refusal to explicitly bless “soy leghemoglobin” should have traffickers in nutritional sanctimony gagging on their meatless, organic, all-natural, potato protein-rich, toxin-, dairy- and GMO-free gruel.

It couldn’t happen to a smugger bunch.

Although the “plant-based” Impossible Burger isn’t exactly a “veggie burger,” it grew out of a vast and mushrooming school of nutritional propaganda aimed at discrediting the way perhaps 95 percent of Americans eat.

You’ve heard the claims: Meat, gluten, dairy products and just about everything else that isn’t a tiny seed or leaf is bad for you.

Nut jobs like widely quoted “Food Babe” blogger Vani Hari claim to find “toxins” in just about anything edible. Many more “experts” with sounder credentials vilify one substance or another without putting a risk factor into context.

For example, gluten, a naturally occurring protein, poses a real threat to victims of celiac disease — but the disease afflicts no more than 1 in 133 people, according to the University of Chicago. Yet a handful of doctors, chefs and food writers stampeded innumerable New Yorkers who were at no risk whatsoever into demanding pricier and, usually, less flavorful gluten-free pasta.

But no food is more commonly detested by elitist culinary proselytizers than meat in just about any form. Many regard Americans’ love for beef, especially, as reflecting “imperialist” cravings to kill and to ravage the earth. On the lunatic fringe, rocker Morrissey has even likened meat consumption to pedophilia.

Enter the Impossible Burger, which cost an impossible $80 million to develop. It was rolled out with hysterical hoopla last summer as superchef Chang showed how to cook it at a media event and added it to his menu at Momofuku Nishi.

I found it a feeble imitation of a real beef burger and even lousier than veggie burgers made from grains and legumes. (The only tasty part was a slice of supermarket-grade American cheese). Some critics claimed to like it. But there was something none of us knew at the time. As the New York Times’ Stephanie Strom reported this week, Redwood City, Calif.-based Impossible Foods — the outfit behind the “burger” — in 2015 had asked the FDA to certify that soy leghemoglobin was safe for humans to eat.

More testing needed, said the FDA.

The FDA doesn’t generally regulate hamburgers. But the meatless wonder’s inventor, for some reason, wanted the agency to explicitly kiss the main element of its “secret sauce.” Why? Did it secretly have qualms about a hitherto obscure substance called “heme” — a protein released when soy leghemoglobin is broken down, in the lab where it’s synthesized from genetically modified yeast? (Yup — genetically modified, just like what the no-GMO crowd calls “Frankenstein food.”)

I’ll spot the Impossible a gram or two of sympathy. The FDA’s imperious role as judge and jury of what is and isn’t safe infuriates critics on both sides of the political aisle. Liberals howl that the FDA plays footsie with Big Pharma and Big Ag. Conservatives say it harms disease victims and causes drug prices to rise by needlessly resisting new medications that are considered safe in other advanced countries.

A consumer with neither bias might well puzzle over any bottle of over-the-counter vitamin D pills. It says that vitamin D, with calcium, helps protect bones and teeth. But it warns, “These claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration” — an ominous-sounding, legally required disclaimer regarding a demonstrably proven fact about vitamin D that’s even taught to school children.

The Times’ Strom cast the Impossible Burger issue in terms of “what happens when a fast-moving venture capital business runs into the staid world of government regulation.” That’s for sure. But it’s also a lesson in bureaucratic double-talk.

While the FDA didn’t ban the Impossible Burger, it none too reassuringly said, “arguments presented [by its creators] . . . do not establish the safety of soy leghemolgobin for consumption.”

Got it? We can’t say for sure the stuff is safe to eat! But, hey, go right on selling it! (Impossible Foods of course insists it’s perfectly safe.)

The Impossible Burger is a “Frankenstein” burger. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe. But the FDA needs to put some beef on the baloney it churns out before Chang goes back to noodles.

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    Article The FDA won’t call this $80M veggie burger safe — and that’s delicious compiled by nypost.com