Lawsuit: Meat alternative Quorn can make you violently ill

Quorn, a popular meat alternative sold at grocery stores nationwide, can cause allergic reactions that make people violently ill and should carry a warning on its label, according to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

CSPI says reactions range from vomiting and diarrhea to difficulty breathing.

Quorn, sold in different shapes and styles to simulate a variety of meat products from hot dogs to "chicken-style nuggets," is made from a fungus found growing in England in the late 1960s. The company's web site says Quorn products have been sold in the U.S. since 2002 and are now the biggest selling frozen meat-free alternatives in this country. Quorn has been sold in Great Britain since 1985.

The lawsuit claims the fungus has been known to cause serious allergic reactions since the late 1970s. In addition, CPSI says the products are actually derived from a soil mold, alleging "Quorn markets its products in a deceptive manner" by portraying it in like this: "Quorn foods are made with mycoprotein, an edible fungi like truffles, morels and mushrooms."

"It's almost unheard of for a company to market something as healthy when it actually makes a significant percentage of its customers sick within minutes or hours," CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner said in a written statement. "It is the company's legal obligation to warn consumers about these serious adverse reactions, and getting the company to meet that obligation is the purpose of this lawsuit."

Quorn's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. British-based Quorn's U.S. operations are run out of Westport, Conn.. The lawsuit filed on behalf of an Arizona woman who alleges she had severe reactions to Quorn before realizing it was the cause of her problems was filed in Connecticut and seeks class action status.

On one of its web sites, the manufacturers of Quorn say the potential for someone to have a reaction to the product is trivial -- between one in 100,000 and one in 200,000. The most common side effect, it said, is fllatulence.

CSPI has maintained a site to collect complaints about Quorn and now claims to have more tha
n 1,400 adverse reaction reports. If you're into it, you can read accounts here of mostly British folks puking and suffering attacks of diarrhea after eating Quorn.

In releasing a copy of the lawsuit, CSPI also sent out comments from the named plaintiff in the case, Kathy Cardinale, described as a 43-year-old advertising executive.

"I felt like the soles of my feet were going to come out of my mouth, I was vomiting so hard," she said. "Once I began to research Quorn online I realized I wasn't alone and that other people had similar stories. It was unbelievable to me that the company knew this was going on and wasn't warning consumers about these problems."
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