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Meat substitute: Pay attention to pollutants and flavor enhancers


Pollutants and flavor enhancers: When replacing meat, be sure to observe the list of ingredients

The demand for meat substitutes has been increasing for years. Schnitzel, sausage, meatballs and much more are also commercially available as meatless variants. More and more people in Germany are accessing it because they eat less meat and want to do something for the climate and their health. However, not every meat substitute is healthy or sustainable.

More and more people are restricting their meat consumption or doing without animal foods altogether. However, some do not want to miss the taste. Vegetarian meat substitutes have seen a real boom in recent years. But the plant-based alternatives are not automatically sustainable and can be fully recommended.

Limit meat consumption

Although according to a survey only about seven percent of Germans are vegetarians, the demand for meat substitutes has been increasing for years. The products are popular because many Germans restrict their meat consumption and opt for vegetarian alternatives, the consumer center in Schleswig-Holstein writes in a current announcement.

These so-called flexitarians (part-time vegetarians) stand for moderate, sustainable meat consumption and often value quality. According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), around twelve percent of Germans are flexitarians. According to statistics, another nine percent want to eat less meat in the future.

Increasing awareness of animal welfare and environmental protection

The reasons for this nutritional style lie in the increasing awareness of animal welfare, climate and environmental protection and also for one's own health.

You don't have to do without the taste. "Anyone who has made the decision to live meat-free or with less meat will find a wide range of meat substitutes in supermarkets and online shops, which should make the change in diet and everyday life easier," writes the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE).

Food producers have successfully picked up on the trend and are bringing a steadily growing selection of meatless schnitzel, sausages and other products onto the market.

In the first half of 2019 alone, sales of meat substitutes in Germany rose by 14 percent compared to the previous year, according to the consumer advice center.

Harmful pollutants

But not all meat replacement products are healthy: tests have shown that some products are contaminated with mineral oil components, so-called "Mosh" compounds.

The pollutants can accumulate in the body. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) classifies Mosh (Mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons) as "potentially worrying".

A lot of fat, sugar and salt

In addition, replacement products contain various additives. "Manufacturers use flavors, flavor enhancers and colorants to make a vegan schnitzel taste and look as solid as meat," explains Selvihan Koç, Head of Unit for Food and Nutrition at the Schleswig-Holstein Consumer Center.

In addition, these products often contain a lot of fat, sugar and salt. The consumer advice center supports the national reduction and innovation strategy of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

The food industry is to use a voluntary commitment to reduce the levels of fat, sugar and salt in finished products. "We are committed to ensuring that consumers will find healthier alternatives in the future," says Selvihan Koç.

Replace ready-made food with home-made food

But not all replacement products are bad - it depends on the composition. “The list of ingredients says a lot more than packaging with an eco-touch. The shorter the list of ingredients, the better, ”says the food expert.

The best way: replace ready-made food with homemade from natural ingredients. A patty made from lentils, chickpeas or vegetables is just as suitable for pans and burgers as a meat substitute that has already been bought. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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