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AGRICULTURE REPORT - April 2, 2002: Quorn - 2002-03-29

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Some food stores in the United States have begun to sell a product called Quorn (pronounced kworn.) Quorn looks and tastes a lot like meat. Yet it is made from a fungus. A fungus is an organism that does not have roots or leaves. It lives on organic material.

In Europe, Quorn already is a popular food with people who do not eat meat. Europeans can choose from more than one-hundred different Quorn products.

Quorn comes from an organism called Fusarium venenatum. It is a member of the Fungi family that includes mushrooms. The organism was first discovered in Britain several years ago. Scientists found the fungus could be made into a product that is similar in appearance to animal tissue.

The food product was developed by Marlow Foods, a business operated by the European company AstraZeneca.

Quorn is grown in large containers and then processed. The process produces a kind of food called mycoprotein. The finished products sold in stores are made to taste like either chicken or beef. Quorn foods look and feel like traditional meat products.

People who have tested Quorn praise its taste. The mycoprotein used to make Quorn products have high levels of protein and fiber. Some of the products have less fat and harmful cholesterol than chicken or other meat.

Quorn foods began arriving in American stores this year after the Food and Drug Administration completed a safety inspection.

Recently, one group urged the F-D-A to reconsider its decision. The Center for Science in the Public Interest urged the agency to stop claims being made by Marlow Foods.

The group questioned the company’s claim that Quorn comes from the mushroom family. It noted that mycoprotein is not a mushroom, which is a common food. The group says that Quorn is a kind of fungus people do not expect in a food.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also questioned the effectiveness of Quorn’s testing. The group said some of the proteins in the product might cause harmful allergic reactions in people. It says the F-D-A should require the company to test for possible reactions.

At the same time, the group praised the company for attempting to make a healthy product without harming the environment.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.