Health Impact News Editor
It was announced this past week (September 2013) in several media sources that a new plant-based egg replacement product funded by Bill Gates and Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel was being launched at some Whole Foods stores in California:
A radical ‘artificial egg’ backed by Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel and Bill Gates goes on sale in US supermarkets for the first time today. Made from plants, it can replace eggs in everything from cakes to mayonnaise – without a chicken ever coming close to the production process. The team today started selling their ‘plant egg’, called Beyond Eggs, in Whole Foods in California – and say it could soon be available in supermarkets worldwide. Source here.
Apparently the product that shipped to Whole Foods in California was actually the “Just Mayo” made from these egg replacements.
I had to do quite a bit of searching to try and find out what the ingredients of this product were, and could not find it listed anywhere on the Internet, not even on the website of the company producing it.
I did find some images of the mayo product made from these “Beyond Eggs,” as the company had sent samples to several bloggers to try out earlier this year. But apparently those did not have ingredients listed. Here is one:
Photo courtesy of Choosing Raw.
As you can see, while it does not list the ingredients, it does claim to be Non-GMO.
So we emailed the manufacturer, and they were kind enough to email back with the ingredients and nutritional information:
As you can see, the main ingredient is expeller-pressed canola oil.
Canola Oil – Not a Healthy Oil
For those who are unaware of the facts concerning canola oil, canola oil is produced from a form of rapeseed that has been “genetically altered” to produce an edible oil that was low in erucic acid. Traditional rapeseed is high in erucic acid, which is linked to many health problems. So through genetic manipulation, a variation was produced that was low in erucic acid, and it was originally called “LEAR oil”, for Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed.
LEAR oil was slow to catch on, however, and was later renamed to canola oil, referring to “Canadian oil”, since most rapeseed was grown in Canada at that time.
Further genetic engineering was done on rapeseed so that the plant could withstand heavy use of pesticides without being killed, much in the same way other GM crops have been engineered by Monsanto today, such as GMO corn and soybean varieties.
Today, over 90% of the canola crops are GMO, similar to corn and soy.
So I am not sure how this product is labeled as non-GMO. It is possible they are sourcing only non-GMO canola, but even the original canola plant engineered from rapeseed was produced by genetic manipulation.
Canola oil is not a traditional oil, and it has only been in the food chain for a short time. It is also a highly processed oil. For more information on the history of canola, see Dr. Mary Enig’s excellent article: The Great Con-ola.
An Appeal for Healthy Fats and Oils – Educated Consumers Needed!
While I realize people have different motivations for replacing eggs, one of them should NOT be that eggs are inherently evil due to its fat and cholesterol content. Solid research clearly shows that eggs have been a traditional and healthy food for a long time.
How eggs are produced today, is another issue altogether. Tens of thousands of factory chickens raised indoors in cages is anything but healthy. The best solution, however, is NOT to replace the egg, but the chickens. You can do this by supporting those who are raising chickens outdoors in a free range or pastured setting.
Unfortunately, however, canola oil is all too typically the dietary oil of choice for those who claim to be “health conscious.” For those of us who know better, we’re tired of seeing it everywhere! If you truly want to use healthy oils in your products or cooking, stick with the traditional fats and oils our ancestors used: animal fat such as beef tallow, lard, and butter, or plant-based saturated fats such as coconut oil and palm oil.
If Whole Foods is serious about eliminating GMO products, then I urge them to reconsider their wide-scale use of canola oil, and start using healthier oils. They are more expensive, since they do not come from U.S. government subsidized crops that are now mostly GMO.
And I am NOT one of the Whole Foods attackers that likes to criticize them for all the foods they sell. I enjoy shopping at Whole Foods stores, but I also realize that many of the foods they stock and sell do not meet the standards I have set for myself and my family for what we will eat. But I am thankful they exist as an alternative to the regular grocery stores carrying mass-produced commodity foods. But when shopping there, it is important to examine everything closely as you would in any other store, and not assume that just because it is in Whole Foods it must be healthy.
People who love to criticize Whole Foods need to understand one basic principle: they sell the products they sell because people buy them!!
YOU have to do your job as a conscious consumer in understanding just what constitutes the kind of healthy foods you need to be eating, and not expect Whole Foods or other grocers to do that job for you. If enough people were to stop buying their products containing canola oil, for example, then they would probably start carrying products and making foods with healthier oils.
Let’s face it, Whole Foods is a convenient store in the sense that it is designed to be a one-stop shop where you can purchase all the foods you need. By being able to purchase everything you desire and need in one place, you save time – it is convenient!
But you pay a price for that convenience, and it forces Whole Foods to go out and source foods people are typically used to buying in grocery stores to meet demands, even if healthy choices are not available, especially for national distribution in a chain their size.
But that’s not primarily their fault! If you want healthier food, start developing relationships with small-scale producers in or around your community. When you do shop at places like Whole Foods, don’t buy the cheap “health food” that is just cleverly packaged and marketed commodity junk food.
One of the trends I am happy to see in some markets around the country is the renaissance of the local butcher shop that sources their meats locally and processes their own products. If you can find one of these in your community, you might even find one that uses beef fat or lard from healthy grass-fed animals for things like frying french fries. That is rare indeed, but it used to be commonplace!
As a consumer, you have a responsibility to know and understand what products are healthy, and who the healthy food producers are outside the handful of mammoth corporations that produce about 95% of the nation’s food. And you need to be prepared to pay a fair price for it, because it is not subsidized commodity food.
I am quite sure that Whole Foods would love to stock their shelves with this kind of food. But if consumers don’t even recognize it if they see it, and if they are not prepared to pay a higher price than commodity food, it will never happen.
You, as a consumer, have much more control over our nation’s food supply than Whole Foods does. So let’s stop throwing stones at Whole Foods every time we find something on their shelves we don’t like. If you don’t like this egg replacer product produced by Bill Gates’ company from canola oil, don’t buy it! If it doesn’t sell, they won’t keep stocking it.
Why You Cannot Trust GMO Labeling
If this new egg replacer product demonstrates one thing, it demonstrates that you cannot trust products that are labeled “GMO free.”
Some of the most vocal criticizers against Whole Foods recently have come from groups demanding GMO labeling. I am all for GMO labeling, and support such efforts. But let’s clear up some misconceptions right now.
First, a retailer like Whole Foods can only rely upon the word of their suppliers as to whether or not a product containers GMO ingredients. Did you know, for example, that Whole Foods has had an anti-GMO policy for years now? But with no labeling laws and disclosure laws in place, they must rely on the word of their suppliers.
But the fact is, ANY food that contains an ingredient that has a genetically modified equivalent in the market could be contaminated, whether that product is labeled GMO-free or not. The only sure way to know that a product is GMO-free is to test each batch for the presence of GMO traits.
For example, we recently pulled three products from the shelves of Whole Foods that were labeled “GMO Free” by one of the national GMO labeling certification organizations, and tested them for the presence of GMOs. What did we find? Two out of the three products tested positive for the presence of GMOs!
Now who’s fault is that? Here Whole Foods was doing exactly what it has been attacked for not doing, which is stock its shelves with products labeled as GMO or not. The products were labeled as “certified GMO free” but in fact had GMOs in it. Whole Foods did not certify that this product was GMO free. The other organization who provides GMO-free certification certified it as GMO free, and Whole Foods trusted them. But we found that it was not true. We don’t blame Whole Foods for this, because they did everything they could to ensure that product was GMO free.
Sadly, foods labeled as “GMO free” cannot be trusted to be truly GMO free today. The GMO certifications that exist are certifications that companies can purchase. I am quite sure they do their best to certify that the products are GMO free, but the only way to be 100% sure is to test each batch of products that contain ingredients with GM equivalents, because cross contamination is widespread, and has infected even organic crops. Even foods that that have no GMO equivalent are being labeled as “GMO free,” which is rather pointless if GM equivalent varieties do not even exist. “GMO free” has become a popular marketing term that adds value to products, even if that product has no equivalent genetically modified variety. “GMO-free” bottled water may command a higher price, as a silly example, but there is no such thing as genetically modified water!
Corn is the biggest problem right now. I personally would not buy corn from anyone unless that particular crop was tested in a lab for the presence of GMOs. At Tropical Traditions and the Healthy Buyer’s Club, an open pollinated heirloom corn that was carefully shielded from GMO corn crops was a popular product, but in the testing of this year’s crop it was found that one of the three GMO strains tested positive, so the product was pulled from the market. Another source of open pollinated heirloom corn that is GMO free has been found, and the farmers that supply Tropical Traditions and the Healthy Buyer’s Club produced some for planting next year. Certain cultivars of corn, such as popcorn, do not have GM equivalents and are less likely to be contaminated. These tested negative for GMO contamination and are still available.
If you want healthier food choices in the market, it is going to take a whole new generation of food producers to start producing it, AND more importantly, educated consumers who will buy it. So if Bill Gates and Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel’s new egg replacement product does not meet your standards, don’t buy it and let Whole Foods know what kind of products you do want! This is, after all, still a consumer-driven market, for now. But if consumers don’t wake up soon and understand what is happening to our food supply, soon we may not have many choices left.
Note: In December 2015 the manufacturer contacted Health Impact News to inform us their canola oil used in this product today is “verified non-GMO.”
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