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World’s Greatest Kosher Cheeseburger Finally Gets FDA Approval

Kosher-keepers and vegans, rejoice

Liel Leibovitz
July 25, 2018
Courtesy Impossible Foods
The Impossible BurgerCourtesy Impossible Foods
Courtesy Impossible Foods
The Impossible BurgerCourtesy Impossible Foods

Having already sung the praises of the Impossible Burger, that magical plant-based patty that tastes and looks and even bleeds just like the real thing, I was following its travails with the Food and Drug Administration with some trepidation. For a newcomer to kashrut like myself, walking into a White Castle, say, and ordering a gooey cheeseburger that is blessed by the Orthodox Union is no small pleasure. But the patty, I knew, was still under inspection, and each lovely bite brought with it an aftertaste of anxiety about the possibility of this treat being deemed kosher but unsafe.

No more: Earlier this week, the FDA finally gave the Impossible Burger its blessing.

The history of the approval is instructive. In 2014, the company submitted its burger for a voluntary GRAS review, which stands for “generally recognized as safe.” It took the FDA a year to pass judgment, and its response was disheartening, asking the company to provide further information pertaining to the main ingredient in its patty, genetically modified yeast. The company did, sharing additional studies finding its product safe. On Monday, the FDA issued its final ruling.

“Based on the information that Impossible Foods provided, as well as other information available to FDA,” the agency wrote, “we have no questions at this time regarding Impossible Foods’ conclusion that soy leghemoglobin preparation is GRAS under its intended conditions of use to optimize flavor in ground beef analogue products intended to be cooked.”

And while many of the burger’s fans are thrilled with the decision, others, like the nonprofit Friends of the Earth, are disappointed that it took the FDA so long to affix its seal of approval to the groundbreaking product. “The FDA’s outdated regulatory processes have left the agency ill equipped to properly assess the safety and sustainability of new genetic engineering applications, like Impossible Foods’ genetically engineered heme,” said Dana Perls, an official with the environmental group.

Observant Jews can voice the same grumbles. With solutions rapidly rising to address a whole host of halachic considerations (we’re looking at you, kosher pig!), the need for fast and efficient FDA approval has never been greater.

Either way, for now, we can’t complain too much: We’ve one terrific cheeseburger sanctioned by both the rabbis and the government, and that’s a blessing all around.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.