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Facts on Quorn

Quorn is the trademark of a fungus-based food product, sold (largely in Europe) as a meat substitute or imitation meat. It is marketed at the health-conscious, and to vegetarians. Some Quorn products contain ingredients derived from factory farmed eggs.

On 6th June 2005, it was announced that Premier Foods had completed its acquisition of Marlow Foods (the owner of Quorn) for 172 million british pounds.

Quorn is made from the soil mold Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684 (previously misidentified as the parasitic mold Fusarium graminearum). F. venenatum was discovered in the soil of a farm near the town of Marlow in the UK in the 1960s.

The fungus is grown in continually oxygenated water in large sterile fermentation tanks. During the growth phase glucose is added as a food for the fungus, as are various vitamins and minerals (to improve the food value of the resulting product). The resulting mycoprotein is then extracted and heat-treated to remove excess levels of RNA. Previous attempts at producing such fermented protein foodstuffs were thwarted by excessive levels of DNA or RNA; without the heat treatment, purine, found in nucleic acids, is metabolized producing uric acid, which can lead to gout.

The product is then dried and mixed with chicken egg albumen, which acts as a binder. It is then textured, giving it some of the grained character of meat, and pressed either into a mince (resembling ground beef) or into chunks (resembling diced chicken breast). In this form Quorn has a light brown color and a mild flavor vaguely akin to a nutty beef, and is suitable for use as a replacement for meat in many dishes, such as stews and casseroles. The final Quorn product is high in vegetable protein, dietary fiber, and is low in saturated fat and salt. The amount of dietary iron it contains is lower than that of most meats.

The patents for the production technology used to produce Quorn are owned by its inventors, Marlow Foods. Marlow was a subsidiary of pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca but is now privately owned. Contrary to some suggestions, Quorn is not genetically modified: the fungus used is still genetically unmodified from the state in which it was discovered. The different tastes and forms of Quorn are results of industrial processing of the raw fungus. Marlow sells Quorn brand mycoprotein in its two ready-to-cook forms, and has recently introduced a range of chilled vegetarian foods based on Quorn.

The fungus was discovered in the 1960s, but remained something of a scientificcuriosity until 1975. At that time food economists theorized that the world would soon experience a significant shortage of dietary protein (although this never came to be). Several companies pursued the commercial development of fungal protein products, of which Quorn was the most successful. Quorn was first test-marketed in the UK in 1985 (although the product was not in general nationwide distribution until 1994), and introduced into other parts of Europe in the late 1990s. As of 2004 it is also available in stores in the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland.

Its 2002 debut in the United States was more problematic -- the sale of Quorn was contested by The American Mushroom Institute, Gardenburger, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They filed complaints with advertising and trading-standards watchdogs in Europe and the USA, claiming that the labeling of Quorn as "mushroom based" was deceptive. The CSPI, observing that while a mushroom is a fungus, fusarium is not a mushroom, and they quipped, "Quorn's fungus is as closely related to mushrooms as humans are to jellyfish."

CSPI also expressed concern that some proteins present in Quorn could produce unexpected allergic reactions in some consumers, and continues to lobby for its removal from stores on this basis. But as others counter, milk, peanuts, soy, eggs, and many other foods are common allergens (often fatally), setting a precedent that simply being an allergen for some consumers is not a reasonable cause to remove a product from stores. Calling the product "fungus food", CSPI claimed in 2003 that it "sickens 5% of eaters". The manufacturer disputes the figure, claiming that only 0.0007% (1 in 146,000) suffers adverse reactions. Defenders of Quorn have alleged CSPI may be influenced by large soybean agribusinesses because Quorn would compete most directly with soy based textured vegetable protein.

Quorn has been criticized by organisations opposed to battery farming, because although it is marketed to vegetarians, some Quorn products contain battery egg, the use of which many vegetarians oppose. For this reason, the Vegetarian Society initially did not approve these products. However, since 2000, all of the Quorn products sold in Europe have been produced using free-range eggs. All Quorn products sold in the UK are now approved by the Vegetarian Society.

  Copyright © 2006 Andy's Market. This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Quorn".

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