Soyburgers laced with neurotoxins -- UPDATED AGAIN

Update again: The search for truth goes on: yesterday morning, I blogged a study from the Cornucopia Institute on the use of the neurotoxin hexane in production of soyburgers, which sparked a controversy n the comment thread about the science, focusing mostly on the question of whether any of the volatile hexane would still be present after the burgers made it to your shelf. For the record: I'm dubious about this objection, since in the absence of a study to the contrary, I think it makes sense to assume that the substances you put into food during production are still present at consumption. And of course, the release of hexane into the environment as part of the production of these "healthy alternatives" undermines the whole cause of improving health.

I posted a followup last night, after Xeni emailed me with a tip that the Cornucopia study had been funded by an agriculture think-tank/lobbying group called the Weston A Price Foundation. Based on that tip, I believed that I'd been had -- just another example of a corporate subsidized "science" that concludes that the company's products are just dandy (or that its competitors' wares are bad for you).

But I was wrong. I've just spoken to Kiera Butler from Mother Jones, who has followed up with Cornucopia. Cornucopia promises that the Price foundation did not fund its research (and further, that none of its research is ever substantially funded by any concern or individual), and the principal researcher repeated her concern that there is no evidence that the hexane boils off before consumption, and that in any event, "health food" companies have no business emitting terrible toxic waste into the atmosphere (here's her update).

And I agree. And we were wrong. Xeni and I offer our sincerest apologies to both Cornucopia and the Price Foundation for publishing inaccurate information.

Update: Looks like I got spoofed: this study turns out to have been funded by an anti-vegetarian, pro-meat lobbying group, the Weston A Price Foundation. These are also the folks who say lard is good for you. Maybe the science is good, maybe it isn't (read the comments for good debate on it), but I sure feel a lot more suspicious about it than I did this morning. (Thanks, Xeni!)

PeaceLove sez, "Shocking Mother Jones article about a Cornucopia Institute report on how many of the most popular veggie burgers are made with hexane, a neurotoxic byproduct of gas refining."

In order to meet the demands of health-conscious consumers, manufacturers of soy-based fake meat like to make their products have as little fat as possible. The cheapest way to do this is by submerging soybeans in a bath of hexane to separate the oil from the protein. Says Cornucopia Institute senior researcher Charlotte Vallaeys, "If a non-organic product contains a soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein, you can be pretty sure it was made using soy beans that were made with hexane."

If you've heard about hexane before, it was likely in the context of gasoline--the air pollutant is also a byproduct of gas refining. But in 2007, grain processors were responsible for two-thirds of our national hexane emissions. Hexane is hazardous in the factory, too: Workers who have been exposed to it have developed both skin and nervous system disorders. Troubling, then, that the FDA does not monitor or regulate hexane residue in foods. More worrisome still: According to the report, "Nearly every major ingredient in conventional soy-based infant formula is hexane extracted."

Here's some of the soy brands that contain neurotoxins: "Boca Burger (conventional), Franklin Farms, Garden Burger, It's All Good Lightlife, Morningstar Farms, President's Choice, Taste Above, Trader Joe's, Yves Veggie Cuisine."

And here's some that are free from hexane: "Boca Burgers (Made with organic soy), Helen's Kitchen, Morningstar (Made with organic), Superburgers by Turtle Island, Tofurky, Wildwood."

This is one way in which the "organic" label is more than just a greenwash! On the other hand, anything labelled as "made with organic ingredients" instead of "organic" can have hexane or plutonium or whatever.

Which Veggie Burgers Were Made With a Neurotoxin? (Thanks, PeaceLove!)

(Image: Danger, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from clearlyambiguous's photostream)


  1. Odd, isn’t it, that hexane isn’t considered “organic”. I’m sure most organic chemists would disagree!

  2. This article only says hexane is used in processing, not whether any remains in the finished product. A lot of food additives are processed with hazardous chemicals. As long as it doesn’t end up in the final product, I don’t see how it’s a problem, or at least it’s no worse than any other processed food. If hexane actually was found in foods after processing, the article should say so.

  3. Hey everybody! Let’s panic about a couple “healthy” foods that may contain a toxin without mentioning that it can be found other places.

    At least this (very similar) article mentions how much hexane is found in soy meal:

    This still leaves a lot of important questions unanswered:

    Is hexane safe at any level? Chronic exposure of 400+ ppm has been shown to do damage.
    Can hexane be removed from soy products the same way it’s extracted from processed oils?
    Are processed oils completely free of hexane? I’m guessing people get more hexane-extracted oils in their diet than they do soy products.

  4. This is the sort of thing that happens when you eat things modified from their natural form. Soy does not naturally resemble meat, it has to be processed extensively to make it even vaguely meat-like.

    Eat real food. If the ingredient list looks more like a chemistry experiment than a list of real foods, put it back.

  5. @Kerov: Good man. I giggled.

    On a more serious note for everyone else: Get informed.

    The nice thing about getting informed is that you can make rational risk assessments instead of panicing. Is Hexane a great choice? Naw. But with a vapor pressure that high, the chemical itself is going to be gone so fast that anything reaching the supermarket, much less your home, is gone. (And no, the packaging is very unlikely to seal in the hexane. It outgasses, gone.)

  6. I wish there were more people concerned with healthy food who took critical rather than sensational roles. First off, an actual figure for hexane content would be appreciated–I’m guessing it wasn’t included because it’s so incredibly low. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess parts-per-billion due to how hexane behaves as a molecule.

    Consider the chemistry for even a moment: hexane is part of an industrial process that extracts proteins from soybeans, but it isn’t too water-soluble (as a hydrocarbon) and it’s boiling point is only 69 C (= 159ish F). Just because it is involved in a food processing step doesn’t mean it’s in the food–at least in any significant amount.

    Given hexane’s chemistry I doubt there is much residue in the product at all, and if there is it’s likely to convert to gas in the cooking process either by boiling water or grilling (unless you’ve figured out a way to boil water at less than 100 C in a conventional kitchen, in which case hat’s off to you sir)! Granted, as a gas you may inhale some of it, but all of the quantities will be so low that it would hardly matter.

  7. Hey hey – plutonium is all natural! Just like arsenic and methane and gamma radiation and rattlesnake venom.

  8. “contain neurotoxins” is magical thinking. Something does not contain something because it was touched by that thing. A spider walking across your food does not mean your food has spiders in it (assuming it leaves when it’s done with the walk), or assumes spidery qualities. You can’t catch gay from shaking hands with gay people. Similarly, making something using a chemical as part of the process does not mean that it contains that chemical.

    1. dbcooper, that’s how I think veggie burgers taste: PU.

      Of course, my husband loves ’em. Ah well.

  9. I would expect that all the subsequent processing of the soy protein, plus any cooking would quickly evaporate off any hexane residue.

    Rather than spread scare stories, how about analysing some soy burgers. A hexane analysis shouldn’t be hard.

    I’d be surprised if the UK FSA or US FDA haven’t already checked for hexane in food. “Does not monitor or regulate” often means “we don’t look because we know it won’t be there at toxicologicaly relevant levels”.

  10. If this sort of thing terrifies you then you *really* don’t want to know about decaf coffee.

  11. Nowhere in this story is there reference to research on how much, if any, hexane is in the final product. Without that essential piece of information this is FUD.

    1. “Moreover, residue testing has tended to focus on the oil, but the protein and fiber that are left after extraction have also come in contact with hexane. To test for the possibility of hexane residues on these other soy components and products, The Cornucopia Institute sent a sample of hexane-extracted soy oil, soy meal, and soy grits to an independent analytical laboratory (registered with the FDA and USDA). While there was less than 10 ppm hexane residue in the oil, both the soy meal and soy grits contained higher levels of hexane residues. The soy meal contained 21 ppm hexane and the grits contained 14 ppm. These tests raise important questions regarding the presence of hexane residues in everyday foods.”

  12. I read the article. I understand chemistry. There may be an issue that soy burger consumers should be informed about. However, the excessive alarmist tone and the dearth of significant studies just makes it FUD pushing.

    My wild-ass guess is you could eat soy burgers dripping with (quickly evaporating) hexane and you would probably have less health problems than the average carnivore (like me).

    (type type) Well my frustrated-that-I-never-got-my-own-lab-coat soul made me read the second half of the report. I’m not impressed. Shorter:

    1) There’s Hexane in them soys.

    2) Hexane BAD! Humans sealed in mason jars filled with Hexane at soy processing plants DIED!

    3) The FDA doesn’t know jack about eating Hexane!

    4) Soy with Hexane BAD!

    I’d say points 1, 2, and 3 are probably true. But that’s as far as I would go.

    Also, the report read like it was written by a Political Action Committee. I have no idea whose PAC it is. Maybe it was the whole “we’re going to explain science to you and do it badly” vibe.

    Thank fsm my SO eats Boca Burgers, so I am not morally compelled to forward it. Whew!

  13. I’ll also chime in with the “there’s almost certainly no hexane left by the time you’re eating it” sentiment. If they had tested burgers at the point of consumption and found hexane or another danger then I would be worried. But just knowing that hexane is used in processing is not scary. News flash: Tons of really scary stuff is used in all stages of industrial manufacturing. The key is what is left in the end product that’s dangerous, how responsibly does the factory handle its waste, and how safe are the workers in the factories?

    The other point I’d like to make, though, is: why the hell do they think they need to get every last bit of fat out of it? It’s exactly that sort of spec-sheet focused “health food” that’s a problem. It doesn’t taste any good without any fat, so they add some back in. Is that really better than just not separating the fat to begin with?

    @Bodly: some times you just want a burger. I don’t eat them very often, but I love the Morningstar Grillers Original. (the Grillers Vegan are nasty, and the Grillers Prime are too greasy.) I’ll eat them with a nice freshly roasted corn on the cob and a baked potato along with a couple fried organic eggs, but the burger really adds something to the meal.

    1. I’d guess the fat thing is partly market driven, partly getting most bang for their buck. People looking for healthy food are less attracted to high fat foods, so there’s a market for high protein low fat as a basic ingredient. There’s also plenty of market for the fat/soybean oil, which they’ve extracted with the hexane, and will happily sell to you in a different food.

      I often eat my hexane burger with leafy greens and a dash of hot sauce in a tortilla wrap. Dr. Praeger’s or Trader Joe’s. Quick breakfast.

  14. Cory, I’m surprised you would post this! It seems like an obvious scare story to me. As has already be stated, hexane evaporates quickly. Perhaps it would stick around in a moist product like soy burgers…but infant formula, not likely. Also, the amounts required to produce ill effects are pretty high and the bi-products resulting from break down in the body are excreted fairly quickly. Prolonged exposure to high levels can cause problems, but we are talking “sitting around inhaling it all day long” exposures or “taking a swig from a bottle of the stuff” exposures…certainly not trace exposure from food processing. I’m all for keeping the food you eat minimally processed, but this story is just spreading FUD. Take a look at this page for some ecological and toxicity information for n-hexane:

  15. My girlfriend eats Boca Burger original, so I read this, and started an email summarizing the article for her.

    And then I took a second and thought: there was no specific information in the article, nothing to summarize!

    When I went to the Mother Jones site a commenter named Lukedog said it much better than I could hope to:

    Mon Apr. 12, 2010 6:16 AM PDT.
    in order to properly assess the risk from hexane in soy food products we need to first know what the levels are (ppb? ppt? ) and then how much dose one takes in eating say 2 burgers. All foods have contaminates of some type at ppm or ppb levels. You can not compare hexane exposure to workers at much higher levels vs ingestion of trace amounts. Perhaps you could ask the companies for their risk assessment on intakes and data from animal studies.
    I believe that these will show the risk is so small as to be insignificant. But I would like to see the real data and risk study ; not just you shouting ” fire”. I also note that the scorecard did NOT include any criteria on what level was ok or not. It just assumes zero is the only safe level.

  16. Yeah, seconding the request for anything that mentions any hexane surviving in soy foods, and more info on the removal of hexane in the first place.

    Not that I’m looking to support soy foods, they’re as damaging to tropical ecosystems as meat farming is to temperate ones. Western vegans getting a kick out of soy might want to rethink it’s moral cost.

    1. “soy foods, they’re as damaging to tropical ecosystems as meat farming is to temperate ones.”

      Whaaa? I believe most of the soy we eat comes from temperate climates, specifically the Midwestern US. I don’t know of a lot of soy being grown in tropical climates, I suppose it’s possible, but at an annual output of over 3 Billion bushels per year, I don’t think we need to import a whole lot of soy.

  17. Yep, more food FUD. I would worry more (which would still be not very much at all) about fungal toxins like aflatoxin or the lovely-named vomitoxin that occur naturally in most seed grains.

  18. Many vegetable oils are extracted from their source material using organic solvents, such as hexane. This is standard industry practice. You can read about this even on industry websites such as this one referring to canola oil extraction

    Wikipedia has information on the procedure here

    Vegetable oils are probably the most prevalent industrial fat source for many processed foods you regularly eat. So this whole article really is not news.

  19. This isn’t shocking. This is just standard drivel being written by a group that seems very much as though it’s starting with conclusions and trying to find evidence to support them, which is then being reported upon by another biased group trying to make it more sensational. The shocking thing here is that this is being repeated on Boing Boing without any skepticism. Shall we be hearing about how vaccines might contain something that might cause autism next?

    I’ve skimmed through the actual report from the Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group supporting “ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food”. And the report makes clear that they’re willing to go to any length necessary to do so.

    Take the hexane matter as an example. Rather than just focusing on its relation to soy, they try to vilify the chemical in any way necessary. They even have a paragraph pointing out that it’s flammable (amazing!), and that a truck carrying hexane once exploded.

    And, of course, they spend quite a bit of time repeatedly calling hexane a neurotoxin, outlining all the health risks that have been documented with hexane for workers with chronic exposure to 400-600 ppm and a number of health risks for significantly higher exposure.

    Then they have a bit of a problem, because even though their data is from their own non-peer-reviewed tests by an “independent analytical laboratory,” they’re forced to admit that, at most, the hexane residues they found were an order of magnitude less than amounts shown to be toxic over the long term. But, they note desperately, maybe the effects on consumers as part of a diet are worse than effects on workers. Since they don’t know, they instead happily go into a description about all the scary things benzene can do instead, and then, while admitting that hexane is “considered to be less toxic,” try to imply that it’s actually the same, because there haven’t been enough tests.

    They then go into their wonderfully scientific combination of crying baby stock photos and anecdotes mothers have sent to them to condemn DHA, again pointing out that there haven’t been enough tests…

    But there will never be enough tests done to quell this sort of scare-mongering. The Cornucopia Institute already knows the answers it wants: organic, American, non-genetically-engineered, minimally-processed food is the only food that is healthy, and organic farming is just as productive, more “economically just,” more sustainable, healthier, more humane and simply better than anything else. Unsurprisingly, none of their conclusions in the report ever contradict these basic assumptions.

    Much of the food I eat is organic, and much of it minimally-processed. But I have that diet because I prefer such foods, and I’m perfectly willing to admit that such things might not be the only healthy foods, or even as healthy as a different diet of conventionally-produced food with more processing. I also don’t conduct tests and research where the aim is to support my preexisting conclusions. After all, when doing so, it’s easy to point out the horrors of dihydrogen monoxide.

  20. I would also like to point out that this chemical is involved in the extraction of all non-organic soybean oils and a variety of other cooking oils derived from plant sources. So don’t get all, “See, vegetarians!” because if you cook with any cooking oil at all, hexane was probably involved at some point.

    I’d also like to add my voice to the chorus of people saying it is nigh impossible for hexane to make it to your plate post-processing and applying heat, commonly referred to as “cooking.”

  21. Found some UK FSA (EU) stuff on Hexane residues.
    This is some note about a specific item, but you get the drift.

    The Committee noted that the levels of undesirable substances in this product would be monitored to ensure that they did not exceed acceptable limits.
    Members advised that sufficient monitoring should take place to ensure that the level of hexane residues does not exceed the maximum limit of 1mg/kg set in EU Directive 88/344/EEC where hexane is authorised for use as an extraction solvent in the fractionation of fats and oils.

  22. Yes it’s a scare story, but I think it’s interesting from a “this is how it’s made” perspective, and the Kerov’s organic joke certainly justified the bandwidth. I wish the FDA did more testing on pesticide/organic solvent residue and whatnot, but will not likely give up my veggieburger. Meat production I understand generates significant methane, though it’s hopefully degassed by the time it reaches the bun.

  23. At one time in North America, it used to be difficult to eat vegetarian – Eating a vegetarian diet required either lots of time to prepare foods, or lots of money (to purchase prepared items from specialty stores). Thus, being a vegetarian was an effective form of class signaling that you came from a higher social class (that would have either time/money for vegetarianism, vs. working two jobs and not having any time to prepare food or money to purchase it).

    Now, as vegetarianism gotten more popular, there are many option at virtually every grocery store (not to mention immigration bringing vegetarian cuisines to North America) – Being a vegetarian is no longer a difficult task… essentially, packaged veggie burgers are as easy to find as Kraft Dinner. Thus, being a vegetarian is no longer an effective method of class signaling.

    People, who build a social identity around their eating habits, are now feeling threatened by the near ubiquitous cheap and easy vegetarian eating products. Cue factless FUD designed to scare people away from easy vegetarian options, and thus restore vegetarianism to its rightly place as exclusive to a specific small social class.

  24. I agree that it sounds like there are no real health implications in this non-story. However, I wonder if anyone could weigh in on the environmental impact of making soy burgers this way? Is it creating more air pollution, or using up more gasoline, or are the quantities so negligible as to be irrelevant?


    Cory, I’m surprised you would post this! It seems like an obvious scare story to me.

    Was that a joke? You must not have been around here very long if you haven’t seen one of Cory’s alarmist, FUDing scare stories with almost zero fact-checking. ;) (Those 10% aside, the other 90% of his posts are great.)

  25. And did you know that corn is treated with LYE to make hominy?

    Articles like this do a disservice to your readers. Why would you publish a scare piece instead of one with relevant details including why hexane is used and how much remains after processing. (hint: none)

  26. Damn, I’ve become entirely focussed on my field. The first thought I had was “Awesome, a source of hexane to make my products precipitate.”

    Also, just a thought. Unless the hexane is damn well bound, shouldn’t it evaporate during the cooking process anyway? Can’t say I’ve heard of a lot of people ordering rare veggie burgers anyway.

  27. I am more alramed at the hazardous effects on the workers having to deal with this stuff. It also goes to show that just because you’re eating a vege burger doesn’t mean it’s any less processed than other fare. Why can’t people just eat normal healthy food in moderation?

  28. Perhaps the article is problematic, but not so much so that I am kept from having second thoughts about the products it is used to create. Regardless of whether or not traces of hexane can be detected in the finished product, it seems undesirable that its use occurs in the production of any food in the first place.

  29. While this sounds like a bullshit scare story, it is nevertheless important to be informed about what’s in your food. In general, if you haven’t heard of it or don’t know what it is, I say don’t eat it.

  30. This is nothing new and not a secret. Hexane, a great solvent, has been used for ages to extract the oil from soybeans (and other products). The vegetable oil is your kitchen was probably processed with hexane too. Mine was.

    Additionally, just because it was processed with hexane does not mean there is hexane in the product. Hexane is very volatile and easily removed through heating. Did they actually find hexane in these products? IF not, it is a non-story.

  31. I dunno…my take away from the article was “Hey, there are boca burgers with organic soy? Neat.” So next time I go to the store, I’ll look for those instead.

    I don’t really care how much hexane winds up in my food at the end, I don’t really want it coming into contact with it at all.

    But I’m about a half a tick removed from growing all my own food and living in a tree, so pay no attention to me.

  32. Whether or not you want to get all alarmist about hexane use, ( I withhold judgment for the purposes of this comment) the really funny thing about this article is how blinkered it is.
    AFAIK, pretty much all food oils are extracted with hexane or related solvents.
    That is, unless you buy a bottle of oil that says “cold-pressed”, that oil was extracted chemically.
    That goes for canola, soy, corn, peanut, etc.

    If we’re going to freak out about chemicals in the food industry, let’s do it right!
    Inappropriately narrowed hysteria always spells ignorance to me.

  33. Hey Cory
    Usually your posts are enlightening and sometimes amazing, but this time is a simple and unfounded fear that needs to be further explained before people get too worked up about it. I am finishing a Chemistry degree at Harvard this May, and work with hexanes daily. They do indeed have neurotoxin properties, but hexane is really quite safe due to its high volatility: that is, it evaporates and diffuses away extremely quickly at room temperature and air pressure. You could soak food in it, and in seconds all the hexane would have diffused out. This definitely poses a problem for workers in food processing who are exposed to these vapors on a regular basis, but there is simply no way hexane could still be in the soy by the time it reaches the consumer (unless you are eating it wet off the conveyor belt).

  34. Ok, in the interest of being a devil’s advocate, the wiki does talk about this metabolite:,5-dione
    as being the likely source of toxicity from hexane, and that it may react with amines (which are plentiful in food, especially protein rich food), and the boiling point is much higher than hexane’s, so it may not wisp away like hexane does. It doesn’t mean there’s a significant concentration of Hexane-2,5-dione in any food, but if all you look at is hexane, you might miss this. The crosslinking of proteins doesn’t trouble me, as the proteins are of course denatured with cooking, but it might imply it’s binding to protein, which might be a problem. The wiki mentions the food industry possibly switching to isohexane, which doesn’t seem to have the same toxicity/toxic metabolites associated with it. It’s good to discuss and wonder about these things. Consider how long salt has been in the diet, and how long it took to get a straight answer for the question “If you don’t have hypertension, is salt bad?”
    Yes, the story is biased and alarmist, but sometimes if someone is crying wolf it makes sense to measure the local wolf population instead of just saying there’s nothing to it. Assumption is the mother of fuck-up.

  35. Cory, It seems like you are drawing the conclusion that since soy is often processed with hexane, that products containing that processed soy also contain hexane. That seems to be quite a jump based on the info in the article cited.

  36. The ultimate irony:

    Vegetarian food companies who will start conducting animal studies to assertain the possible harmfull effects of hexane.

  37. I’m glad this article is bringing attention to the potential environmental cost even if it’s true that hexane “evaporates” or whatever. All the more reason in my book to eat more raw foods than anything that’s processed.

    1. “I’m glad this article is bringing attention to the potential environmental cost even if it’s true that hexane “evaporates” or whatever. All the more reason in my book to eat more raw foods than anything that’s processed.”

      Wait, so you are saying that even though the article is total crap, you are still glad it was posted?

      Try this one on for size… I am glad it was posted because it brings more attention to piss poor critical thinking skills.

      1. It’s always better to try to panic people into following your set of beliefs than it is to try to use rational discourse.

        The article is really feeble. Soybean oil is a necessary product. You can’t get at it with a press, it has to be processed this way. The protein flakes used to make pretend meat are a byproduct of that process. It’s nice that they can use the enitre animal, so to speak.

    2. I’m glad this article is bringing attention to the potential environmental cost even if it’s true that hexane “evaporates” or whatever. All the more reason in my book to eat more raw foods than anything that’s processed.

      I tend to agree. The only interesting thing in the article is how it highlights that modern, mass food production is an industrial process, with all the implications thereof. Most commentators seems to be missing that, focusing specifically on how eating the food could affect their own, personal health. IMO the implications of food production are important to consider, lest one fall into a really narrow, self-focused perspective.

  38. It’s the blatantly non-fact-checked scare story junk articles like this that really annoy me about Boing Boing. Srsly Cory, I mean I know your probably a busy guy and all but stop and think for a second before posting sometimes. I mean your headline screams “Soyburgers laced with neurotoxins” yet nowhere does it point to any evidence that the soy contains a trace of hexane after processing. Nor does it indicate what levels are harmful.

  39. If food soaking in organic solvents makes you uneasy, do yourself a favor and don’t try to find out how they make caffeine free coffee.

    1. Actually it’s quite interesting to do some research about that, find the various processes that have been or are used in coffee decaffeination, then find out that even so some of them would scare many people, the result is no more harmful than regular coffee ;-).

  40. While the Cornucopia scorecard metrics are a little stilted, at least I can say, with a small measure of pride, that my local organic food processor scored the highest.

    Now I’m really wishing Eden made some sort of veggie burger. Their current facility isn’t set up for flash freezing, but why can’t veggie burgers be sold fresh in refrigerated vacuum packs the way tofu is?

  41. Love the BoingBoing community. Thousands of voices of reason out there! It restores my faith in humanity. Saw this story, had a vague sense of ‘waaaait a minute’ and then saw that everyone else caught it out already. Good times. Keep it up.

  42. Cheerios…the little round cereal we feed our babies as a snack, contain Trisodium Phoshate.
    When preparing the walls in your house for painting it is recommended you clean them with TSP. Trisodium Phosphate.

    Supposedly this household cleaner (that you are advised to wear gloves with while using) is used as a binding agent.

  43. Please change the article title to “Soyburgers manufactured with neurotoxins” unless there is evidence of hexane in the end product.

    I don’t want to eat neurotoxins if I can avoid it, but lets be accurate.

    my $.02

  44. Hmm…I just read sections of the Cornucopia Institute report, and it looks like it is NOT true that all of the hexane evaporates. I appreciate the dialog and I think it is important to look at the evidence…so, here is the evidence from the Cornucopia Institute’s report:

    “Studies on hexane-extracted oils show that not all hexane evaporates before consumption—residues can appear in foods. According to EPA reports,97 small quantities of solvent (up to 0.2 percent by volume of oil) can be present in oil after extraction,
    even after solvent recovery by film evaporators and a distillation stripper. A Swiss team of scientists tested various oils and found hexane residues in some of the tested oils.98
    Moreover, residue testing has tended to focus on the oil, but the protein and fiber that are left after extraction have also come in contact with hexane. To test for the possibility of hexane residues on these other soy components and products, The Cornucopia Institute sent a sample of hexane-extracted soy oil, soy meal, and soy grits to an independent analytical laboratory
    (registered with the FDA and USDA). While there was less than 10 ppm hexane residue in the oil, both the soy meal and soy grits contained higher levels of hexane residues. The soy meal contained 21 ppm hexane and the grits contained 14 ppm. These tests raise important questions regarding the presence of hexane residues in everyday foods.
    The effects of consuming foods that contain hexane-extracted ingredients are not known. As with most of the approximately
    70,000 chemicals that are registered with the EPA for commercial use, hexane has been tested for its effects on workers but has not been tested for its effects on consumers as part of the human diet. And, it appears that no studies looking for synthetic breakdown constituents of hexane in food are available. Other hydrocarbon solvents, such as benzene, can interfere
    with human development, causing a spectrum of disorders including structural birth defects, hyperactivity, attention deficits, reduced IQ, and learning and memory deficiencies.99 Hexane is considered to be less toxic than benzene, but few studies are available on the long-term effects of consuming hexane-extracted foods.”

  45. Packaged foods FTL. Fresh meat and produce, bean and grains, nuts and seeds + crockpot = easy, delicious and no mysterious ingredients.

  46. The linked article didn’t mention it, but if you google “hexane soy 21ppm” you’ll find many articles from May and June of 2009 that say hexane was found in soy meal at a level of 21ppm. I’m not sure how bad that is, or if that will all vanish by the time the soy products are cooked and eaten. Also, to those who are focusing on soy burgers, this is about all soy products, including soy milk… Will hexane evaporate from soy milk?

    All I can say is WTF, now I need to be a chemist to know if I should be scared by this?

  47. These solvents are also used in the extraction of vegetable oils. If your oil doesn’t say “expeller pressed” then they used solvents to extract the oils. Expeller pressed means they only used pressure to mechanically extract the oils. But they don’t get all the oil that way and use solvents to get the rest. I believe the solvents distill out easily. But it adds a hazard to reduce the price.

  48. I don’t know if it’s been mentioned yet, but while there’s probably some truth in the report, the Cornucopia Institute is an arm of (funded by) the Weston Price Foundation, a group that backs the dairy & meat industry and exists to fund studies meant to debunk soy & most forms of vegetarian/vegan diets, regardless of actual science. They have a vested interest in scaring people away from soy and plant based foods… and it’s not for health reasons, it’s for monetary ones.

    Regardless of these findings, it’s pretty hard to take seriously the scare tactics of a group whose sole purpose for existing is to try and prove that vegetarian diets are harmful while consumption of meat & dairy is supposed to be good… despite all logic and contrary evidence. Most of these studies they publish are, at best, grasping at straws. In other words, consider the source.

  49. the point is that food production (whether it be vegetable, meat or anywhere in between) in any appreciable quantity usually involves nasty, dirty things that you probably do not want to know about. If you really care, you should do your best to support your local farmers market. Aside from that, most products (i.e. pretty much everything sold in a grocery store) have a despicable history before they reach your mouth, regardless of what the label says. So if you are going to poo poo food bought from a store, I’d challenge you to live on a farm and harvest, raise and slaughter your own food…otherwise…be quiet and eat your dinner…

  50. So if you are going to poo poo food bought from a store, I’d challenge you to live on a farm and harvest, raise and slaughter your own food…otherwise…be quiet and eat your dinner…

    Life is more analog than binary: there are lot’s of shades of grey between black and white.

    For example: I don’t “grow my own food,” but I buy my meat locally from a farmer, get my milk and dairy products from a local creamery, and belong to a local CSA. At times I’ve had a garden and backyard chickens, but don’t have that option right now.

    You seem to be saying “if you can’t be perfect, shut up.” But that ignores the fact that life is a process, and you try to trend in the directions you wish to move.

    “Be perfect or be silent” isn’t much better than the opposite (i.e., hypocrisy, poo-pooing store bought food while eating it).

  51. A few things:
    This research was brought to us by Corn®
    Corn is used to feed cattle, chickens, virtually every meat that can be pattied comes from an animal that is fed corn, regardless of the animal’s natural diet.
    Corn’s largest market is feeding livestock.
    So in conclusion, I’m not sure how much I trust a study provided by the corn industry battering it’s only competition, the ‘hippie’ soy bean market. But I’ll keep reading up on the topic.

  52. an off topic question but related to this thread.

    I posted this morning, after reading through the entire comment thread at that point. I think I was #32.
    I responded to someone who was #36
    then i come back tonight and there’s new comments *before* mine, several of which contained essentially the same thoughts. What was #36 when I responded is now #55
    Had I read those comments, ( that is, had they been there when I posted) I wouldn’t have bothered to post redundant info.
    Is this an artifact of the comment approval process?

  53. I hate to mention it, as a really non-activist food eater, (vegetarian and fish and seafood), but I would hate to see a decomposition of all the chemicals we produce in our food when we cook it. The amount of toxins in char and burnt oil, the things that make our food taste good, is staggering. I’m all for the body’s ability to fix itself and filter out such toxins, but if you really want to know what poisons you are ingesting, check out a good raw food source. It’ll show you that this little hexane processing scare is small potatoes.

  54. Not to mention – science experiments funded by a biased group are INHERENTLY flawed. There is no question whether the science is good or bad – it’s bad. Science cannot be produced with expectations, or those expectations will bias the process. This whole thing is ridiculous. You can assume that the study, the measurements, and the reporting is ALL biased because the funding wants it to be. That’s how it works.

  55. What really confused me was the fact Boca (made by Morningstar) and Morningstar itself was included in both lists of containing and not containing hexane?

  56. I’m surprised people around here haven’t run into the Weston A. Price people before, but I can tell because you talk about how hexane is also used in processing canola oil—if you *really* want some fun, suggest to a Weston A. Price follower that canola oil is anything other than the purest poison.

    Then duck and cover, for their head will explode shortly afterward.

    Seriously, some of my friends are devotees, and while my diet is very similar to theirs, it’s not rooted in the “ZOMG! I might get teh cancer!” fear-mongering that the WAP people promulgate.

  57. So whats wrong with sticking to organic?

    Soy Protein Isolate is in many other “high protein” foods that the low carb crowd eats. Breakfast cereal, bars, “protein water”(yuck!) etc.

    (Organic)Boca burgers on the grill. It’s whats for dinner tonight!

  58. It’s important to keep in mind that there is always a price to pay for convenience, be it hexane residue in cheap soy burgers or a little E.coli in your store-bought ground beef.
    Grind your own burgers and freeze them, be they bean or not.

  59. Allow me to be the first to introduce a couple of apparently new constructs to folks here. The first is something called the:


    (it’s a bona fide concept, look it up)

    The second is:


    (its a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction, without actually participating as one of the reactants; again, such things actually exist; look it up for yourself)

  60. I’m really not that concerned with hexane in 10s of ppm. It has not been shown to have clinical effects until the 100s of ppm range, then only when inhaled, and acting as a slight anesthesia. I’m sure longer term effects are greater, but so they are of almost anything. Eat what you want in moderation.

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