Elana Levine, an allergy specialist in Ontario, Canada, witnessed first-hand the effects of the protein extracts from yellow peas that are used to emulate the texture and taste of animal meat in vegan meat products.
It was when Levine had a patient with anaphylaxis that she learned about the allergy-causing properties of yellow peas. At first, she thought that the cause of the allergy was peanuts. But after thorough tests, she found out that the cause of the allergy was pea protein. Her patient had consumed yogurt, not nuts.
Peas and peanuts have some similarities in terms of proteins. Thus, those who are allergic to peanuts would also be sensitive to pea protein. Worse, those who are allergic to this type of protein could experience anaphylaxis, which is a serious allergy that causes symptoms such as rashes, low pulse, swelling in the face, mouth and throat, shock and difficulty swallowing. It could also lead to death.
It was not the first time that someone was sent to Levine's clinic due to an allergy that was not caused by nuts.
"In several, the reaction was severe. One ten-year-old with a history of food allergies was eating a home-made pizza thought to be free of all allergens, but within minutes had difficulty swallowing and her face was swollen. The ingredients listed vegan pepperoni - which contained pea protein," she said. "The issue is that pea protein is not just an additive, it is the main ingredient."
In the United Kingdom, manufacturers do not label pea as an allergen. Thus, vegan meat could put at least 12,000 Britons allergic to pea protein at risk of anaphylaxis.
Pea is also used as one of the primary ingredients in snack bars, vegan burgers and vegan sausages. Popular bakery Gregg's attributed its increase in sales in 2019 to the popularity of its vegan sausage rolls.
Vegan meats have successfully infiltrated the fast food industry and supermarkets in the U.S., where shares of vegan burger maker Beyond Meat reached up to 160 percent in its debut on the stock market. Its stock opened at $46 but immediately rose to $72 before closing its first day at $65.75. Beyond Meat's products were placed in the meat section of supermarkets, attempting to lure animal meat lovers to turn to fake, vegan meats.
In 2019, fast food restaurant Burger King and Impossible Foods started including a vegan burger on the menu of 59 stores in and around St. Louis, Missouri. It is expected that more branches of the fast food chain would offer vegan burgers on their menu.
Vegan meat could also pose health risks linked to salty foods. The George Institute for Global Health in Melbourne, Australia studied the components of pork-free bacon, falafels, tofu-made sausages and vegan burger patties. Those foods are widely available in Australian supermarkets.
The research team found out that the vegan meat products have a high concentration of salt. The pork-free bacon has two grams of salt per 100 grams, which can make up for a third of a person's daily allowance for salt. Meanwhile, one vegan pie brand contains half of the recommended daily allowance for salt.
"We know that Australians are leaning towards eating more of a plant-based diet. This is ultimately a good thing. However, these are still packaged, processed foods," said Clare Farrand, head of the research team. "Our research found that meat-free bacon has the highest average salt content followed surprisingly by falafels and meat-free sausages."
Visit Food.news to learn more about the effects of fake vegan meat on your health.