From Academic Kids

This article is about the meat substitute. See Quorn (disambiguation) for other uses

Quorn is the trademark of a fungus-based food product, sold (largely in Europe) as a meat substitute or imitation meat. It is marketed at the health-conscious, and to vegetarians. Some Quorn products contain ingredients derived from factory farmed eggs.

On 6th July 2005, it was announced that Premier Foods had completed its acquisition of Marlow Foods (the owner of Quorn) for 172m.



Quorn is made from the soil mold Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684 (previously misidentified as the parasitic mold Fusarium graminearum). F. venenatum was discovered in the soil of a farm near the town of Marlow in the UK in the 1960s.

The fungus is grown in continually oxygenated water in large sterile fermentation tanks. During the growth phase glucose is added as a food for the fungus, as are various vitamins and minerals (to improve the food value of the resulting product). The resulting mycoprotein is then extracted and heat-treated to remove excess levels of RNA. Previous attempts at producing such fermented protein foodstuffs were thwarted by excessive levels of DNA or RNA, which can be toxic in high concentrations.

The product is then dried and mixed with chicken egg albumen, which acts as a binder. It is then textured, giving it some of the grained character of meat, and pressed either into a mince (resembling ground beef) or into chunks (resembling diced chicken breast). In this form Quorn has a light brown colour and a mild flavour vaguely akin to a nutty beef, and is suitable for use as a replacement for meat in many dishes, such as stews and casseroles. The final Quorn product is high in vegetable protein, dietary fibre, and is low in saturated fat and salt.


The patents for the production technology used to produce Quorn are owned by its inventors, Marlow Foods. Marlow was a subsidiary of pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca but is now privately owned. Contrary to some suggestions, Quorn is not genetically modified: the fungus used is still genetically unmodified from in the state in which it was discovered. The different tastes and forms of Quorn are results of industrial processing of the raw fungus. Marlow sells Quorn brand mycoprotein in its two ready-to-cook forms, and has recently introduced a range of chilled vegetarian entrees based on Quorn.

The fungus was discovered in the 1960s, but remained something of a scientific curiosity until 1975. At that time food economists theorised that the world would soon experience a significant shortage of dietary protein (although this never came to be). Several companies pursued the commercial development of fungal protein products, of which Quorn was the most successful. Quorn was first test-marketed in the UK in 1985 (although the product was not in general nationwide distribution until 1994), and introduced into other parts of Europe in the late 1990s. As of 2004 it is also available in stores in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.


Its 2002 debut in the United States was more problematic -- the sale of Quorn was contested by The American Mushroom Institute, Gardenburger, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They filed complaints with advertising and trading-standards watchdogs in Europe and the USA, claiming that the labelling of Quorn as "mushroom based" was deceptive. The CSPI, observing that while a mushroom is a fungus, fusarium is not a mushroom, quipped "Quorn's fungus is as closely related to mushrooms as humans are to jellyfish." CSPI also expressed concern that the novel proteins present in Quorn could produce unexpected allergic reactions in some consumers, and continues to lobby for its removal from stores on this basis.

Calling the product "fungus food", CSPI claimed in 2003 that it "sickens 5% of eaters" [1] (http://www.cspinet.org/new/200309231.html). The manufacturer disputes the figure, claiming that only 1 in 146,000 people suffers adverse reactions. Defenders of Quorn have alleged CSPI may be influenced by large soybean agribusinesses because Quorn would compete most directly with soy based textured vegetable protein.

Quorn has been criticised by organisations opposed to battery farming (http://www.eggscam.com), because although it is marketed to vegetarians, some Quorn products contain battery egg, the use of which many vegetarians oppose. For this reason, the Vegetarian Society (http://www.vegsoc.org) does not approve these products. However, since 2000, part of the Quorn range has been produced using free-range eggs (http://www.quorndon-mag.org.uk/archive/_recipies/), including the pieces and mince ingredients.

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