Food Safety your veggie burgers may contain hexane

Published on April 23rd, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

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Is Hexane in Your Veggie Burger? (& What is Hexane?)

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Do your burgers contain toxic hexane? If you eat non-organic soy burgers, the chances are good that they do. Take a look at the list below to find out.

Do you love veggie burgers? At different points in time, I have been a huge fan of a few brands of veggie burgers (and at times, they have been completely unappealing to me… don’t ask me why, I don’t know). Well, now, whether you love them or not, or are moody about them like me, you might think twice before buying them.

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A new investigation by the Cornucopia Institute has found that most major brands of veggie burgers contain trace amounts of hexane, which is listed as a “hazardous air pollutant” by the EPA. Hexane is shown to cause nervous system failure and skin disorders in humans.


The Cornucopia Institute’s report informs us that although “organic” food processing prohibits hexane, hexane is common in “natural” products, including those products labeled “made with organic ingredients” that may contain some organic ingredients but also contain a good percentage of non-organic ones.

“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,” Kiera Butler of Mother Jones Online reports.

“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,” Cornucopia Institute senior researcher Charlotte Vallaeys says.

A list of burgers that you should probably avoid until this issue is addressed is below. But, perhaps more important than that for you, “Nearly every major ingredient in conventional soy-based infant formula is hexane extracted,” according to the report.

Products Made with Hexane

Amy’s Kitchen (The CEO/co-founder of Amy’s is somewhat of a friend — a friend of several friends of mine — and I don’t think that he would be using hexane if he knew it had negative human health consequences. If possible, I will get in touch with him and see what additional info I can find out. *UPDATE WITH RESPONSE FROM AMY’S CEO & CO-FOUNDER IN THE COMMENTS BELOW)
Boca Burger, conventional
Franklin Farms
Garden Burger
It’s All Good Lightlife
Morningstar Farms
President’s Choice
Taste Above
Trader Joe’s
Yves Veggie Cuisine

Hexane-Free Products

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

Whole Foods brands and Silk soymilk were not tested.

Sunshine Burgers

Also, as a final note, my FAVORITE burger of all time (non-homemade, that is) is the Sunshine Burger. Rather than try to imitate meat or other burgers, it is a truly wholesome and delicious burger with its own unique taste. It is based on raw sunflower seeds (no soy or wheat in it) and uses other whole grains and vegetables in it. It contains no funky ingredients — pure and simple ingredients only. I suggest trying it out next time you have the chance.

By the way, I have no affiliation to the makers of Sunshine Burgers. I just love them.

Image Credit 1: [cine]diego via flickr/CC license
Image Credit 2: ★keaggy.com via flickr/CC license



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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • http://glueandglitter.com Becky Striepe

    Oooh do I love Sunshine burgers or what! They’re a favorite treat during grilling season.

  • http://appliedmythology.blogspot.com Steve Savage

    You have to read far into the Cornucopia report to find out how much hexane. It is on the order of 14-20 ppm. They present no information whatsoever to consider if that is enough hexane to do anything to anyone- forgetting the old maxim, “the dose makes the poison.” The reason that most soy meal is “defatted” is that if it isn’t, the polyunsaturated oils tend to go rancid. I don’t know, but I suspect that the Organic brands that don’t use hexane probably have to be quickly frozen.

    There are natural compounds in soybeans that are actually more toxic and present at higher levels. There are some pretty potent anti-nutritionals and also many estrogenic compounds. Someone could make those sound pretty scary if they wanted to.

    The question is “who benefits from this?” Its not consumers

  • Zach

    Interesting additional info, Steve. Thank You

    I was wondering about the potency — what they mean by “trace amounts” — as well.. I mean, what effect it could have at this level.

    Regarding “The question is ‘who benefits from this?’ Its not consumers”: is this referring to the hexane, sharing info about hexane or the other compounds in soybeans, or something else?

  • http://glueandglitter.com Becky Striepe

    Steve, that’s an excellent point about soy. I’ve been working to cut back on the soy in my diet for that very reason, especially the pseudo estrogens. That Sunshine Burger that Zachary mentions at the bottom of the post seems like the ideal solution – soy free and made from whole foods!

  • http://appliedmythology.blogspot.com Steve Savage

    Zach,
    It would be interesting to know if there is any connection between the Cornucopia Institute and any of the brands getting the “free” advertising.

    Becky,
    I really don’t think that Soy is dangerous as part of a varied diet. I guess if you ate it all the time it could be an issue. Fortunately there are soybeans being developed with much better fatty acid profiles – the reason that we had so many transfats in our national diet was that soy oil had to be “partially hydrogenated” to be a stable and functional oil. That was the most real health threat that came from soy.

    On the plus side, soybeans in a crop rotation greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed – virtually none for themselves and about 40 lbs/acre less for the following crop. Always tradeoffs

    • Debby Fortune

      “Because of concerns around soy protein extracted with hexane, we have eliminated the use of any soy protein ingredient that uses hexane in its processing.

      Only four products (some of our veggie burgers) out of over 170 products have ever contained soy protein concentrate. We have replaced soy protein concentrate in these products with organic tofu. Tofu production is similar to cheese making and uses no unnatural ingredients. To see our tofu being made check out this video: http://www.amys.com/about_us/our_kitchen.php#tofu

      Our best selling burger, the California Burger, has never contained soy protein of any kind.

      Amy’s remains a family owned business and we take great care to make healthful foods with organic ingredients. We welcome communication from our customers and invite you to visit us at http://www.amys.com”

      Andy Berliner, CEO and Co-founder of Amy’s Kitchen

  • http://www.dailyping.net/ Rick

    You have to read far into the Cornucopia report to find out how much hexane. It is on the order of 14-20 ppm. They present no information whatsoever to consider if that is enough hexane to do anything to anyone- forgetting the old maxim, “the dose makes the poison.” The reason that most soy meal is “defatted” is that if it isn’t, the polyunsaturated oils tend to go rancid. I don’t know, but I suspect that the Organic brands that don’t use hexane probably have to be quickly frozen.

    There are natural compounds in soybeans that are actually more toxic and present at higher levels. There are some pretty potent anti-nutritionals and also many estrogenic compounds. Someone could make those sound pretty scary if they wanted to.

    The question is “who benefits from this?” Its not consumers

  • http://www.bulletcontract.com/ Rick

    Zach,
    It would be interesting to know if there is any connection between the Cornucopia Institute and any of the brands getting the “free” advertising.

    Becky,
    I really don’t think that Soy is dangerous as part of a varied diet. I guess if you ate it all the time it could be an issue. Fortunately there are soybeans being developed with much better fatty acid profiles – the reason that we had so many transfats in our national diet was that soy oil had to be “partially hydrogenated” to be a stable and functional oil. That was the most real health threat that came from soy.

    On the plus side, soybeans in a crop rotation greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed – virtually none for themselves and about 40 lbs/acre less for the following crop. Always tradeoffs

  • Pingback: Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers & Herbal Butter : Eat. Drink. Better.

  • http://www.tornadosocial.com/ Eric

    Interesting additional info, Steve. Thank You

    I was wondering about the potency — what they mean by “trace amounts” — as well.. I mean, what effect it could have at this level.

    Regarding “The question is ‘who benefits from this?’ Its not consumers”: is this referring to the hexane, sharing info about hexane or the other compounds in soybeans, or something else?

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