For Immediate Release
Makers of Quorn, the Chicken-Flavored Fungus, Sued for Not Disclosing Dangerous Reactions
Vat-Grown Mold Tastes Like Chicken but Makes Some Violently Ill
WASHINGTON - An Arizona woman has filed a class action lawsuit
accusing Quorn Foods of not disclosing on labels the fact that some
people have serious allergic reactions to the main ingredient in its
Quorn line of meat substitutes. That ingredient happens to be a
fungus-mold, actually-discovered in the 1960s in a British dirt sample.
The company grows the fungus in vats and processes it into a fibrous,
proteinaceous paste. But more than a thousand people have reported to the Center for Science in the Public Interest that they have suffered adverse reactions,
including nausea, violent vomiting, uncontrollable diarrhea, and even
life-threatening anaphylactic reactions after eating the patties,
cutlets, tenders and other products made with Quorn's fungus.
Photo Credit: Stacey Greene "I was vomiting so hard," said Kathy Cardinale, who ate these Quorn patties.
nonprofit food safety and nutrition watchdog group is serving as
co-counsel in the case. Connecticut State Marshals are serving the
company, whose U.S. headquarters are in that state, with the suit
today. The case is filed in Superior Court in the Judicial District of
Kathy Cardinale, a 43-year-old advertising executive, ate
Quorn's Chik'n Patties on three separate occasions in 2008. Each time,
within two hours of eating the product, Cardinale became violently ill.
Thinking she had had a stomach virus, Cardinale didn't realize that she
was reacting to the Quorn until the third time she ate one of the
patties, after which she vomited seven or eight times within two hours.
"I felt like the soles of my feet were going to come out
of my mouth, I was vomiting so hard," said Cardinale. "Once I began to
research Quorn online I realized I wasn't alone and that other people
had similar stories. It was unbelievable to me that the company knew
this was going on and wasn't warning consumers about these problems."
Photo Credit: Stacey Greene Clockwise from upper left: Quorn's shape-shifting fungus takes the form of "chik'n", "turk'y", or unspecified "grounds."
Foods, which is British-owned, markets its signature organism as being
related to mushrooms, truffles, and morels, since all of those are
fungi. While that's true, it's as misleading as claiming that humans
are related to jellyfish since they're both animals, according to CSPI.
Quorn's fungus is named Fusarium venenatum-"venenatum" is Latin for
As early as 1977, a study found that some people have
adverse reactions to Fusarium venenatum. That unpublished study
conducted by Quorn's developer found that 10 percent of 200 test
subjects who ate the fungus experienced nausea, vomiting, or other
gastrointestinal symptoms, compared with five percent in a control
group. The company claims the rate of illness is trivial, though a 2005
telephone survey of consumers in Britain-where the products have been
marketed longer and more widely than in the United States-commissioned
by CSPI found that almost five percent of Quorn eaters experienced
adverse reactions. That was a higher percentage of people than that of
those who reported allergies to shellfish, milk, peanuts or other
common food allergens. Since 2002, more than 1,400 British and American
consumers have filed adverse reaction reports on a website maintained
by CSPI, quorncomplaints.org.
almost unheard of for a company to market something as healthy when it
actually makes a significant percentage of its customers sick within
minutes or hours," said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner. "It is
the company's legal obligation to warn consumers about these serious
adverse reactions, and getting the company to meet that obligation is
the purpose of this lawsuit."
"Quorn Foods should either find a fungus that doesn't
make people sick, or place prominent warning labels about the vomiting,
diarrhea, breathing difficulties, and other symptoms Quorn causes in
some consumers," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not
disagree that Quorn products cause sometimes-severe allergic reactions,
the agency still considers the Quorn ingredient to be "generally
recognized as safe."
"At a time when the public and doctors are deeply
concerned about the rise in food allergies, it is deeply distressing
that the FDA knowingly permitted a powerful new allergen into the food
supply," said Jacobson. "We call on the FDA to revisit its policy."
CSPI's litigation department
has, since its founding in 2004, sued a number of leading national food
companies and has secured agreements improving food labeling,
marketing, or product formulation with Anheuser Busch, Frito-Lay, Kellogg, KFC, Kraft, Sara Lee and other companies. CSPI's litigation activities helped spur the removal of artificial trans fat from restaurant food and helped return millions of dollars to consumers from makers of the dietary supplement Airborne.
Daniel Blinn of the Connecticut firm Consumer Law Group is serving as co-counsel in the case alongside CSPI's litigation unit.