Ecoholic by Adria Vasil
"Q: I heard veggie burgers are made with a toxic chemical. Should I be staying away?
A: Forget the Caramilk mystery. How do meatless food sculptors get soy to look just like corn dogs, pulled pork, ribs, wings, nuggets and stuffed chicken Cordon Bleu? The whole thing fascinates me, sometimes enough to lure me into a bite. But do I ever think they’re good for me? Not a chance.
They’re all made with soy protein isolate (aka textured vegetable protein, aka soy meal) and have little to do with whole soybeans.
These substances derived from defatted soy flour are mostly used in pet foods, but sweetened up with sugar and spices, taste pretty good. Scarier question is, what are these foods processed with?
Soy oil is generally separated from flaked soybeans – leaving defatted meal that’s ground into flour – using a chemical called hexane, one of the volatile organic compounds that constitute natural gas, crude oil and gasoline. It’s an air pollutant and neurotoxin that might sound familiar to you if you’ve read recent stories about hexane poisoning dozens of workers at an iPhone factory in China.
The stuff is great for degreasing and dissolving – it’ll even remove Crazy Glue – and is widely used to extract oils from all kinds of seeds and veggies.
The problem is that not all the hexane evaporates during processing. A small residue is left in food. [...]"