Can hexane-extracted soy protein isolate be considered organic?

Next time you’re buying veggie burgers or energy bars containing soy protein isolate, think twice. “Hexane is commonly used in the processing of non-organic veggie burgers, meat alternatives, and nutrition bars,” an East Bay Express article reports. “To produce soy protein isolate, manufacturers immerse whole soybeans in a bath of the synthetic, petroleum-based solvent. A byproduct of gasoline processing, hexane provides a cheap and efficient way of separating oil from protein in soybeans, and is used in making most non-organic soy oil and soy protein ingredients. Yet that efficiency comes with a price: Hexane is a volatile compound that can react with other air pollutants to create ground-level ozone, poses both short-term and longer-term occupational health hazards to those who come into close contact with it, and may present risks to consumers who are potentially exposed to residues in foods.” But until a cost-effective mechanical separation method becomes available, or consumer demand for hexane alternatives increases, this may continue to be the most popular method of soy protein extraction. Click here to read the full article.

[Photo by Dan McKay]

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