Are there Neurotoxins in Your Veggie Burger?

Last week Mother Jones ran an inflammatory little piece by Kiera Butler about soy burgers that contain a known neurotoxin called hexane. It flew around the internet, and some claimed the study was paid for by the anti-soy meat lobby—but turns out that's not actually true. The study in question—Behind the Bean (PDF here)—found hexane in many of the most common veggie burger brands, including Amy's Kitchen, Boca Burgers, Morningstar Farms, Trader Joe's, Yves, and more.

Having hexane in food is problematic for three reasons: It's a neurotoxin, which means it's bad for the people who eat it, it's bad for the water it's expelled into after people eat it, and—most important—it's bad for the people working in the factories where it is used. Why is it used?

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.

I generally dislike any reason to hate on vegetarian diets, but this is pretty bad—not to mention the fact that from an environmental perspective, there are other reasons to be concerned about soy as a crop.


(cc) by Flickr user sshb