Mycoprotein Side Effects and Quorn Allergy Symptoms
I ate a Quorn Lasagne recently and was violently sick within two hours. I had a small suspicion that I may have a problem eating Quorn, as the last time I ate it, over a year ago, I had made a stir-fry, and had similarly been sick within a few hours.
However, I had been led to believe by Quorn over the years that its products were derived from a mushroom and therefore healthy.
Something didn't add up and I decided to find out more about Quorn.
After carrying out some initial research on the internet, I was horrified by what I found out - that Quorn is not made from a mushroom as it stated in the past, or a "vegetable protein" as currently stated but instead is made from a mould and a potentially toxic one at that.
No wonder I was so sick!
I know many vegetarians eat Quorn quite happily without side effects, but for up to 10% of people, it can cause an allergic reaction.
If Quorn is made from a mould, people need to know about it. There are some people, myself included, who are or might be allergic to mould. As a child I had an allergic reaction to Penicillin, which is a drug made from a mould, and was unable to take it.
It would help if there was a warning on the packaging, but I guess it wouldn't look very good if there was a label which said "This product is unsuitable for people who are allergic to mould".
I wanted to write this hub because I feel that the company that manufactures Quorn misleads consumers about what its products are made from and the fact that it is aware that for a minority of people, it can make them very ill, yet there is no warning of this on their packaging.
So, what is Quorn?
Back in the early 1960s, nutritionists and health experts were concerned that the predicted growth in population would mean global food and protein shortages in the future. Food scientists started a search to find new sources for food, which would help to meet the predicted increase in demand. After several years of searching around the globe, an “organism” was found occurring naturally in the soil in a field in Marlow, Buckinghamshire in the United Kingdom, which ultimately gave Marlow Foods the opportunity to develop a completely new food ingredient - Mycoprotein!
Quorn is the brand name for mycoprotein, a man made protein made from mould, a type of fungus.
- "Myco-" is from the Greek word for fungus and Mycoprotein means protein from fungi. A fungus called Fusarium is the main source of mycoprotein and it is grown in vats using glucose syrup as food. It is entirely man made.
- The main mycoprotein products on sale in Europe and the USA is the brand Quorn. It is manufactured by Marlow Foods in the United Kingdom, who currently market it as a meat substitute in vegetarian products such as pies, lasagnas and stir fries etc. . . .
- Quorn has been available to consumers in the UK since the mid 1980’s and has been introduced into other countries such as the US several years later.
Studies have shown that mycoprotein leads to allergic reactions for a small minority of people taking part in research
- The British developer of mycoprotein themselves conducted a clinical study in 1977-78 that proved that the product causes sometimes-severe gastrointestinal disturbances.
- According to a study undertaken by CSPI, it was concluded that around 4.5% of the population are intolerant to Mycoprotein.
- In another study, in tests by the manufacturer of Quorn products themselves, Marlow Foods, a division of the multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, it became apparent that for a small percentage of people who ate a Quorn product, they would go on to experience vomiting, nausea, or stomach aches within a matter of hours.
Therefore, the manufacturers themselves know there is a problem with the problem causing an allergic reaction but are choosing not to make the public aware by not putting warning labels on the products.
Why do people have an allergic reaction to Quorn?
- Mycoprotein has a high protein content and allergens are usually proteins. Many people are allergic to protein foods such as peanuts and shellfish.
- Many people also have allergies to fungi or moulds (including by inhalation) and that is why they may also react to Quorn.
Marlow Foods have also misled consumers on what their Quorn products are made from.
In the past Marlow Foods claimed that it was made from a mushroom. This was incorrect and a classic example of deceptive marketing. As a result the FDA and authorities in the United Kingdom forced Marlow Foods to change the labeling of Quorn foods, which had falsely claimed that mycoprotein was “mushroom in origin,” “mushroom protein,” or “a small, unassuming member of the mushroom family,” even though it’s made from a non-mushroom processed mould.
Marlow Foods continues with its misleading information. As of today – September 5th 2010, on Marlow Foods own website, they state that Quorn “is made with mycoprotein, a versatile, vegetable protein”.
I have eaten a wide variety of mushrooms and vegetables throughout my life, I am now 43, and have never been sick like this before.
I can only conclude that mycoprotein is not a mushroom or a healthy vegetable, as it currently states, but is indeed a mould, and for some people like myself a toxic one at that.
The particular fungus used, Fusarium venenatum, is known for producing mycotoxins. In fact, the word ‘venenatum’ is Latin for venomous.
Quorn’s manufacturer, Marlow Foods, states that the strain of fungus it uses supposedly does not produce toxins. (So why was I so sick?)
What is a Quorn Allergy?
A quorn allergy is an adverse reaction by the body's immune system to quorn or food containing quorn. The body's immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE - an antibody) and histamine in response to contact with the allergen
What are Quorn allergy symptoms?
Symptoms of having an allergy to Quorn / Mycoprotein include vomiting, diarrhea, hives, swelling, or even anaphylactic shock.
The symptoms come on very quickly. I was vomiting violently within a couple of hours.
In a CSPI-commissioned telephone survey of British consumers, approximately 4.5% of people who ate Quorn reported adverse reactions. CSPI’s analysed 597 reports of adverse reactions attributed to Quorn. Of those people, 67 percent suffered vomiting; 33 percent diarrhea; 6 percent hives or broken blood vessels in the gastrointestinal tract or eyes; and 1 percent anaphylactic reactions. Many people suffered repeated reactions, which helped them identify Quorn as the cause. Most of those reports were collected on a CSPI web site, www.QuornComplaints.com.
How many cases go unreported?
I consider the side effects from eating Quorn products are more widespread than we think.
Worryingly, over 500,000 Quorn meals are now eaten every day in the UK. Most people won’t initially make the connection between eating Quorn and feeling ill as it has a healthy image and will blame their symptoms on something else.
It wasn't until after the 3rd time that I ate Quorn and was sick yet again that I knew I had a problem with it - I had previously attributed the cause of vomiting to other reasons.
No one would choose to eat moldy food that makes you sick. I for one won’t be eating Quorn products again in a hurry. In my opinion, it should be banned.
So far, hundreds of people have commented on this article, saying they have also been ill after eating Quorn. See the comments section at the end.
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