Burger King and the Temerity of the Impossible Whopper

The chain’s meatless burgers are “coated in meat,” says a recent class-action lawsuit.

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Cross-contamination is a very real concern for certain consumers, notably vegans, but also lacto-ovo vegetarians who include eggs and dairy in their diet. The presence of meat in a vegan’s or lacto-ovo vegetarian’s food intake can be dangerous, causing allergic reactions including but not limited to anaphylactic shock.

“For guests looking for a meat-free option, a non-broiler method of preparation is available upon request,” Burger King’s webpage notes. In other words, unless you read their website prior to dining, you would have no idea BK prepares their plant-based Impossible Whoppers on the same grills as their meat-filled counterpart.

Does that disclaimer exonerate the chain, however? Do you as a consumer typically peruse a popular (and old) fast food chain’s website prior to your visit?

Why is that disclaimer/option not posted in the stores themselves?

From CNN: Phillip Williams, the plaintiff in the case, is a vegan who does not eat or drink anything that uses animal by-products. He purchased an Impossible Whopper at a location in Atlanta in August after seeing advertisements and paid “premium price” for the meatless option, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that if he had known the burger would be cooked in such a manner, he would have not purchased it.

Similarly, Carl’s Jr.’s Beyond Burgers are cooked on meat grills, while White Castle’s Impossible Sliders are cooked on dedicated grills used solely for their plant-based product.

From Del Taco’s website: Beyond Meat® is not cooked in our restaurants in the same place as animal protein, however, we do prepare all of our tacos in the same prep area that does contain animal protein and dairy.

Here is an updated list of chains where one can find the troublesome plant-based patties:

If you are a stringent vegan, of course, you may want to stay away from this recent phenomenon altogether. Personally, I love the Beyond Burger and my freezer is frequently stacked with them. I’m vegan, but not hardcore. I’ll prepare — or, in fairness, my wife will prepare — my burgers by simply cooking them atop a new piece of tinfoil, though in the same oven where she cooks her meats before or after.

Some vegans, a bit more stringent than I, will require the use of another oven entirely.

Regardless, I believe the advent of these burgers has been for the good. I also believe that in time most restaurants will utilize separate cooking areas in response to what is becoming a growing controversy.

Just why is the existence of these burgers “for the good?” Check out the following:

Food for thought. No joke intended.

Plant-Based vs. Meat: Nutritional Value

Aside from the substantial protein all of the above share (plant-based in the former, animal-based in the latter), the nutritional value, or lack thereof, is equivalent.

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Notable is the high-sodium content of the plant-based burgers, as compared to that of meat. Still, as I personally don’t eat meat, this is a no-contest. Hopefully, both Beyond and Impossible will work on this particular aspect of their product.

Has Burger King Intentionally Misled Customers?

I am firmly in the camp that they have, and continue to do so. Consider their current print campaign, which matches their television commercials:

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The Impossible Whopper is not 100% beef for as long as they use the same grills as meat, regardless of scrubbing method. Cross-contamination is, indeed, an issue.

Does it bother me? It does now that I think about it. I believe BK to have some nerve perpetuating something blatantly false.

Will I take part in the suit? No. I’d prefer that this issue organically evolves with the times, as in separate cooking methods in all cases. I don’t need a monetary reward. Others, apparently, do. We used to laugh at vegans, and those on anything other than a standard carnivorous diet. Today, these burgers outsell their beef counterparts in many restaurants.

The definition of “standard,” in this context, will continue to change. For one, I’m thrilled that over 400 million less animals were slaughtered this year than in 2007.

That is what I call “progress.” Time will tell how far this change will go.

Thank you for reading.

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Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.

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