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Your Vegetarian Meat Substitutes May Be Full of Lies


Seriously scary news for vegetarians: 10 percent of vegetarian meat substitutes contain actual animal meat, according to a study from Clear Labs, a food analytics startup that looked at what DNA could be found in meat and meat-free foods.

Researchers found chicken in certain vegetarian breakfast sausages and pork in some vegetarian hot dogs—yikes! What’s more, they found human DNA (meaning anything from a fingernail to flakes of dead skin, not that the study clarified) in 2 percent of the samples—two-thirds of which were vegetarian products. (What other secrets are in your fare? These 7 Crazy Food Additives You Probably Missed on the Nutrition Label.)

This is even more worrisome considering the World Health Organization just announced Bacon, Ham, and Other Processed Meats Are Carcinogenic. So even when you think you’re safe from cancer-causing meats, you can’t be too sure.

Less shocking but still not cool: Many of the labels of vegetarian products exaggerated the amount of protein in the product by as much as two and a half times (that’s 10 grams instead of 25!). (Skip the deception and stick to these 12 Meat-Free Sources of Vegetarian Protein.)

The good news is we all know we shouldn’t be eating pre-packaged food too often, so if you’re sticking to fresh produce, the majority of your diet really is vegetarian.

But when it comes to your indulgences, your best meat-free bet is products from Trader Joe's, where the nutritional information was accurate most often, says the study. In fact, the best vegan or vegetarian option they analyzed was Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo, with TJ’s Meatless Corn Dogs scoring runner-up.

As for knowing how your other favorites stack up, you can check out what’s in the clear by checking for a score of 95 or above.


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