Food Safety and Meatless Meat

Meatless meat has come on like a freight train. There are many reasons for this, including perceived consumer health benefits, less animals being killed and even reducing the pace of global warming. But with this explosive growth has come new food safety concerns.

The Meatless Meat Industry is Experiencing Steady Growth

Food Safety News states (after reviewing a report prepared by Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), The Good Food Institute (GFI), and SPINS), “Data in the recently released report show that [U.S.] plant-based meat dollar sales in 2021 remained strong, delivering a repeat year of $1.4 billion in sales, and growing 74 percent in the past three years, outpacing growth of conventional meat by almost three times.”

Products so far include meatless burgers, sausage, chicken, fish fillets, and eggs. Despite facing opposition from the slaughterhouse industry and facing the challenge of driving pricing down, meatless meat is gaining traction at a fast pace, with more players entering the market every year.

The two current big players – Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods – have come out of the gates like gangbusters.

Both companies have formed distribution partnerships with Burger King, Qdoba, Del Taco, Subway, Carl’s Jr., White Castle and KFC. Plus, McDonald’s is partnering with Beyond Meat to offer a branded burger to patrons. Already, you see “meatless burger patties” sold in most grocery stores. Moreover, major meat companies, such as Tyson and Purdue Farms, are launching their own plant-based meat products!

Producers must Address New Food Safety Concerns to Continue Market Growth

Which brings us to the issue of food safety. According to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, they are:

  • The creation of new allergens: For example, pea proteins used in highly processed meat substitutes could trigger peanut allergies in some people
  • Possible presence of physical hazards: Any highly processed food could potentially contain foreign matter (e.g., glass, metal)
  • The introduction of possible contaminants: The repeated consumption of new proteins could be toxic over the long term could be harmful to consumers (further study is required).

Meatless meat (aka “alternative meat”) is regulated by the FDA and therefore must comply with all applicable food safety regulations.

At minimum, producers must have an approved HACCP Plan to market alternative meat products. Many of the major industry players have already obtained GFSI certifications to market their products broadly.

Want to learn more about this growing market and its food safety challenges? We suggest digesting these quick reads:

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