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What Not to Eat

What Not to Eat

The Dangers of Quorn Products You Should Know

If you frequently eat meat substitutes, look out for Quorn products, or you may suffer their not uncommon and sometimes deadly side effects.

quorn products

Mycoprotein, the novel ingredient in Quorn-brand frozen meat substitutes that’s made from processed mold (Fusarium venenatum), can cause serious and even fatal allergic reactions.

Though the manufacturer’s (Marlow Foods) advertising and labeling implies that the product is “mushroom protein” or “mushroom in origin,” the mold (or fungus) from which it is made does not produce mushrooms. Rather, the mold is grown in liquid solution in large tanks.

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It has been used in the United Kingdom since the 1990s and has also been sold in continental Europe. Quorn products have been marketed in the United States since 2002 and in Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand more recently. The chunks of imitation meat are nutritious, but the prepared foods in which they are used may be high in fat or salt.

Several percent of consumers are sensitive to Quorn products, resulting in vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and, less often, hives and potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions. Many people have gone to emergency rooms for treatment of Quorn-related reactions. In 2013, an 11-year-old boy who had asthma died after eating a Quorn Turk’y Burger.

A survey in the United Kingdom sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found that the percentage of consumers sensitive to Quorn is probably as great as, or greater than, the percentage sensitive to soy, milk, peanuts, and other common food allergens. The British and American governments acknowledge that people are allergic or intolerant to Quorn foods, but so far have rejected CSPI’s recommendations to bar the use of mycoprotein or require Quorn foods to bear a label warning of possible severe adverse reactions. (In fact, when Quorn-containing “vegetarian” products are served at restaurants, cafeterias, and other foodservice locations, there is no label to inform consumers that they are eating Quorn foods.)

CSPI urges consumers to avoid Quorn products and urges natural-foods retailers like Whole Foods not to sell this product that is dangerous to sensitive individuals.

Reactions to Quorn products

I developed a bad stomachache, headache, and nausea and vomiting after consuming 2 Quorn patties for lunch and part of a bag of Quorn cubes a few hours later…. The stomachache started shortly after eating the products but I did not make the connection until I began vomiting a number of hours later. I will never eat this product again because I believe the symptoms were due to the Quorn products. I also had a very unusual taste in my mouth with [belching] after I ate Quorn and it didn’t go away until after I vomited numerous times…. I was very ill and I was alone.

– P.H. Boulder, Colorado

On 3 separate occasions I suffered severe, sudden nausea followed by a few hours of violent vomiting after eating Quorn products. I was out for dinner and had to make my journey home while vomiting violently every few minutes.

– C.J. Glasgow, United Kingdom

About 1.5 hours after eating the meatballs…I felt a tingling sensation throughout my entire body. I broke into a heatflash…so bad I was dripping wet from sweat. My shirt was soaking wet. My entire insides felt like they were being turned inside out. 2 hours after eating the product I started vomiting violently. In all…I had 4 episodes of intense vomiting & 2 bouts of diarrhea.

– D.A. Leola, PA

I ate one portion of Quorn meat substitute. I became VERY sick, nausea and vomiting (several times). I assumed that I had a stomach virus. Later that night I realized that I had eaten something earlier that I had never eaten before. I looked it up on my laptop and saw that others had been similarly sickened. I threw out the remainder of the box. I have never eaten any Quorn product again, and I have been amazed that the products are still on the market. I was SOOOO sick.

– A.W. Durham, NC

I have had a violent reaction to eating Quorn on three occasions (only in retrospect identifying Quorn as the common element). Symptoms came on between three and five hours after ingestion. They started as a headache and rapidly turned into a migraine type attack, followed quickly by diarrhea and then simultaneous vomiting. This would last for a couple of hours. I then found that I needed to sleep for sometime and when I woke suffered from what I can only describe as a hangover. The effects of my reaction took about 24 to 36 hours to clear… My reaction was not unlike Salmonella poisoning (which I have had) and was put down to that. It was this attack made me realize it was Quorn as I ate an identical meal to my sister, who was unaffected.

– T.B. London, UK

Consumers who believe they have been sickened by Quorn foods may file an adverse-reaction report with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

NutritionAction.com doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government funding. Any products recommended by NutritionAction.com have been vetted by our staff of nutritionists and are not advertisements by the manufacturers.

Add Your Comments

9 Comments

  1. Angelina
    Posted July 6, 2015 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    What are the best/safest brands of non-meat frozen burgers and chicken?

  2. cmoyers@waynecounty.com
    Posted July 6, 2015 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Just because some people are allergic to a food does not mean it should be banned. I LOVE these products. They’re amazing. Anyone can be allergic to any new food they try. We don’t have a warning label on peanut butter, no one is trying to ban peanut butter – why take away a food product many people love? Why discourage Whole Foods from selling it? Why is it a “dangerous food” and why all the media hype over this versus eggs or milk? Please stop scaring people away from good tasting protein foods alternative to meat. If you’re allergic, stay away, and let me have my ‘chicken’.

    • Stacy
      Posted July 8, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      I completely agree with emilys29 and cmoyers. Why ban a non-animal product that many love and DON’T experience adverse reactions to? How many people each year get sick and die from contaminated meat and eggs? Yet we see no movement towards banning those products — just additional destruction of our natural habitats to make room for more livestock and feed for livestock. We need more alternative meat solutions to help address the world’s unsustainable reliance on animal products. Not less. Enough with the nanny state already. Leave Quorn alone. Start fighting the beef and dairy subsidies and help move the world in the right direction.

    • David
      Posted July 15, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      From Nutrition Action Healthletter: Unlike peanuts or eggs, which have been eaten for millennia, quorn is a new entrant into the human food supply. People have no idea that it could cause severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, or even death. Some people react the first time they eat Quorn, while some react only after building up a sensitivity.

      It has had remarkably little safety testing. And the testing that has been done is not very reassuring. One early company-sponsored test found that 10 percent of 200 test subjects who ate the fungus experienced nausea, vomiting, or stomach ache, compared with five percent in a control group.

      Quorn is not FDA-approved, it has simply been declared “Generally Recognized As Safe” by the company. Also foods containing peanuts, eggs, and other major known allergens are required to be labeled to warn people who are allergic. There is no such warning on Quorn.

      For all those reasons, we call it a dangerous product and consider it different from peanuts. If you are already eating Quorn and haven’t experienced any of these adverse reactions, you probably don’t need to stop. But if you don’t want to risk any of these symptoms, opt for something else.

  3. garrickk
    Posted July 6, 2015 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Can you help us to ban this product?

    • David
      Posted July 15, 2015 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      From Nutrition Action Healthletter: Yes, let’s work together to get this product banned before another child dies from it. CSPI continues to call on FDA for a ban on this product.

  4. emilys39
    Posted July 6, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Quorn products are delicious, safe, and trusted by millions worldwide. http://www.quornfacts.com

  5. Karen
    Posted August 7, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Quorn products are a delicious, healthy meat alternative. My family and I have never had a bad reaction. I don’t feel this product should be banned any more than peanuts should be banned. However, a warning label explaining that some people may experience an allergic reaction does seem warranted.

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