“Faux” Meat from Taiwan?

Over 50% of processed foods for vegetarians found to contain meat
2009-06-14 06:38 PM

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) The Investigation Bureau has recently found that some processed foods advertised as vegetarian contained meat, and it has vowed to refer producers who knowingly added meat to their products for prosecution on fraud charges.

Pu Chang-en, a technician at the bureau’s department of forsensic science, said Sunday that among samples collected from 31 vegetarian food vendors in Taipei City and County for safety checks, food taken from 17 vendors were found to contain meat.

DNA tests revealed that in the two most serious cases, the vegetarian patties and ham of one vendor and vegetarian dried shredded pork from another vendor contained at least 20 percent beef or pork, Pu said.

Full Article

On the plus side the government in Taiwan discovered this on their own accord versus what usually happens in the PRC — over even in the U.S. with peanut plants.

Many Chinese restaurants that offer faux meat dishes get their supplies from Taiwan. Caveat Emptor!

The problem has been discovered to be worse.

Thanks to Dag for sending me this link to an article about meat and dairy turning up in the food at many LA “vegan” restaurants:

Quarry Girl: Labratory Tests Of Vegan Restaurants In LA

Legumes are low cost, high taste vegan nutrition powerhouses. Protein, calcium, beneficial fibers, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals galore. They are often poo-pooed by people. Hopefully, this news will get some people to give this wonderful food another chance.

100% vegan legume cook book: Fabulous Beans

Update # 2:
A colleague was kind enough to send me these related URL from they year 2008 that describes efforts by Taiwan to create better standards for faux meat labeling. Given the speed of any government, it is in the eye of the beholder whether those efforts failed or they are still in development, given the original article in this post:

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50 thoughts on ““Faux” Meat from Taiwan?”

  1. i hate myself for going to terry’s so much. ugh.

    i think i’ll stick to american/canadian faux meats from now on…

  2. Niiiiiiice… yet another reason for fixing your own food. But I am so tired of my own cooking!

  3. @de, comment #1

    I agree. It will be tough as many vegan friendly restaurants are Asian restaurants that get their faux meats from Taiwan. It looks like corrective measures may follow, but there is always the chance it will happen again.

  4. Yeah… I did have some worries about fake meat products after the melamine/ lead in toys, and I guess now with reason. I’m not sure how those statistics translate into what was exported to the US, but since we don’t have the best screening standards…

    I’m glad I recently learned how to make seitan, etc. Should do more of that 🙂

  5. Holy crap. So no more eating at Yuan Fu, Veg Garden, Java Green, or many other places. Most of their mock meats come from Taiwan. This is profoundingly distressing.

  6. I buy faux meat in Chinatown (Oakland, CA; sorry, East-coasters, not available there), including both canned goods (“Companion” brand Lo Han Chai) and frozen “meats”, imported from Taiwan directly to Oakland.

    I wonder how I can find out which vendors are pure vegan and which aren’t. Anyone got any ideas?

  7. I’m a big fan of legumes and whole grains…….foods that only get minimal representation in many vegan restaurants. I don’t think it is the fault of the restaurant owners. It seems like many vegans don’t like these things as much as faux meats, at least not when eating out. Maybe now there will be a few more dishes of each added to various menus in my area.

  8. While I like legumes (eat a lot of soy and garbanzo), I don’t like whole grains all that much (even when “eating in”). For example, I much prefer Trader Joe’s Organic Spaghetti, over the Whole Wheat kind. I not fond of the taste and texture of whole grains in bread, pizza, etc. (I do love gluten.)

    And when I go out to a restaurant, I want to get something I’d never have at home.

    I’m one of those rare vegans who lives a life of convenience. I don’t cook, plus I’m away a lot of the time, so I eat a lot of Amy’s dinners and other prepared meals.

  9. Hey Cal,

    As a former Cali dweller, I know just the place you are taling about in Oakland. It’s on 8th and Broadway, right?

    I made that trip many times while living in Fremont and San Jose. They have unique mock meats I’ve never seen anywhere else, that’s for sure. I guess they’re not really “mock” tho right…ugh!

  10. @de, comment #9

    How is that different from spending $10 on what is just highly processed flour?

    There are a number of elaborate bean dishes that are a bother to make at home but are a treat worthy of paying a restaurant for. Like tofu lasagna or lentil “meat” loaf done right.

  11. @12

    well, i can easily make a tasty bean dish for about a buck.

    it takes time and more $ to make seitan, etc- i don’t mind paying for a meal where someone else made it; plus, commercially made seitan, etc is usually a bunch better than what i can make, since they have a lot more resources and dedicated machinery for it.

    i can easily make soymilk at home, and i do to save $, but commercial soymilk still tastes better, so i still buy it every now and then.

  12. @13

    I can pay a restaurant $10 for tofu lasagna or a serving of lentil loaf. I can also spend 4 hours on a Sunday afternoon making those dishes for myself. It is worth it to me to pay $10 for those whole food ( faux meats are processed flour ), bean dishes.

  13. ehhhhh, not with how easy it is for me to make those foods 🙂

    seriously, i can whip together tasty whole food dishes in about 10-15 minutes if the beans have been pre-soaked/ cooked. & tofu lasagna takes about that long.

  14. > I guess they’re not really “mock” tho right…ugh!
    Well, this brinngs me back to the start of the thread.
    I don’t actually know that they’re not “mock”. This reminds me a little of the spinach and peanut scares. One supplier has an outbreak of salmonella and many people stop eating these things entirely.
    In this case, I’m not sure how to interpret the results. “In samples from 31 food vendors…” What are they calling a “vendor”? If this means “restauranteur”, then the places they sampled all could get their supplies from 1 or 2 manufacturers. If this means “manufacturer”, then IMO it’s more serious.
    Will I throw away what I’ve got? Unlikely.
    I plan to have a talk with the owner of Layonna (that place Caroline was talking about).

  15. “Its a lot closer than wheat gluten or texturized soy protein.”
    Not really… for seitan, all you need to do is grind grain and then combine the flour with water and knead out the gluten for seitan. That’s a lot less complex than making soymilk by grinding and boiling beans, and then adding a coagulate and pressing for tofu.

  16. Glass half empty, glass half full. When I read the quarrygirl post, I found it reassuring that, despite the lax attitude in Taiwan toward keeping track of ingredients, so many of the restaurants’ meat substitutes were found to have no traces of egg or casein. And it looks as though most, if not all, of the restaurants whose products tested “high” for egg source their mock meats from the same place, which suggests that the problem is probably fairly limited and may be easily rectified.

    It would have been a lot more helpful if, instead of testing whole dishes selected from restaurants’ menus, they had tested specific brands of mock meats, since it’s pretty clear that that’s where the problem lies. Hopefully, someone somewhere will put up another $1000 to do some followup testing along those lines.

    As for restaurants that flat-out lie about the veganness of their cheese, I’m glad that here in the DC area, at least, we have a reputable organization that works with restaurants to ensure that what’s sold as vegan cheese is really vegan.

    Finally, how many vegans are there, really, who don’t know about legumes?

  17. Cal, go ahead and talk with them but unless they are planning to require DNA testing of their mock meats and then drop the ones that turn out to be bad, i don’t see the point. also, many of the owners of these places aren’t veg themselves, so they prob don’t see the big deal the way we do;

    the (non-veg) chinese guy that runs our local, mostly taiwan/china imported fake meat store was clearly upset when the makers of Vege One vegan shrimp and crab confessed to him there was actual fish in in the shimp (5 years ago); he pulled it, but it’s back now. i’m sure he just took their word that it’s now okay and didn’t require them to test it and send him a report.

    my feeling is that these companies (manufacturures) have proven themselves to be so untrustworthy for so long that we vegans should ask restaurant owners to cease purchasing taiwan/PRC- based mock meats, period. there are so many choices of great faux meats now that are made in the US/Canada/Europe.

    China has little regulation of their industries and a terrible track record lately…lead in toys, contaminated pet food, poisoned dairy products that killed chinese children, contaminted drugs, etc. they also don’t have a culture that sues they way we do. not even sure chinese citiizens can sue companies.

  18. Caroline: Why are PRC policies relevant to a discussion of products made in Taiwan?

  19. If you all haven’t, visit the URL that Dag sent me that I have appended to the bottom of my original post. The problem is a lot closer to home.

  20. It is my understanding that Asian cultures, in general, do not take truth in labeling — even outside of a legal context, as seriously as Westerners do.

    Since Americans are now buying the products of the Taiwanese faux meat producers I think the cultural respect ball is now in their court.

    I think it is time we begin having friendly talks with local restaurant owners to switch to American mock meats. Especially, since many vegans are concerned about the environment — those textured flour products are being transported from the other side of the planet via fossil fuel.

  21. @21, Caroline said:
    > there are so many choices of great faux meats now that are made in the US/Canada/Europe.

    I don’t cook, so there are many products that fare decently when embedded in a stew or a casserole or a lasagna, but I put them in sandwiches, on pizza, and eat plain. I haven’t found very mcuh domestic-made that satifies, at least not enough to eat right out of the package as a snack or a staple.

    Could you give me some examples of those great faux meats?

    Also, ditto Buzzard, re lumping China and Taiwan together.

  22. @Buzzard, #20

    Know superficially, yes. Having a true appreciation for how tasty, nutritious, healthy, cheap and environmentally friendly beans — no.

    Beans have a negative and undeserved stigma in our culture. I think many vegans, in addition to the ignorance mentioned above, subscribe to that stigma.

  23. Buzzard,
    re: PRC…also lax regulations and lack of oversight. my above- mentioned examples of lead in toys, melanine (sp?) in pet food, poisons in milk, and contaminants in pharmaecuticals all orginated in the PRC, not taiwan, i beileve (correct me if i’m wrong); if they do all this, what the hell is to stop them from putting some fish in vegan shrimp to boost sales?

  24. I know some people just don’t like to cook.

    However, I think it is a negative trend in our culture how many people don’t prepare their own foods. No offense to anyone, but not making your food is wasteful, expensive, far less healthy, probably has a much bigger environmental impact and you lose out on the simple beauty of handling natural foods.

    I don’t buy the “too busy” angle I hear from many of my friends. There is something seriously wrong with your lifestyle if you don’t have time to cook because that means you don’t have time for life/sustaining your life.

  25. “The problem is a lot closer to home.”

    Can you elaborate on what you mean by this? It’s a really long article, and I think I read most of it pretty closely, but I’m not really sure which part specifically you’re referring to.

    “I think it is time we begin having friendly talks with local restaurant owners to switch to American mock meats.”

    Considering that Taiwan is enacting a new law – effective TODAY – that vastly strengthens the labeling requirements on vegetarian foods, I think that any such action would be premature (if not racist).

  26. @Buzzard #26,
    the best imo is Gardein. MOMs (our local natural foods store) carry stuffed “chicken” breasts and shredded bbq chicken; it’s a combination of soy and wheat protein. if you ever have the opp to go to Sublime in ft lauderdale, funded and run by zillionaire AR/vegan activists nanci alexander, that’s what they use. it’s my 2nd fave vegan rest just under horizons in philly. not into too many other mock meats these days. have discovered wonderful ways to make seitan…

  27. @Cal: For sandwiches, I’m a big of Tofurkey sausages. They’re not so great straight out of the packet (too mushy), so I heat one for a few minutes in a lightly oiled pan (keep turning it so that one side doesn’t get too done), then put it on a roll with some fresh watercress (or similar) and a sauce of some sort (I like the sweet chili ginger sauce by the ginger people).

  28. @24, beforewisdom said:
    > those textured flour products are being transported from the other side of the planet via fossil fuel.

    It’s a misconception that the farther distance something is shipped from, the more contribution to global warming. It turns out that shipping things by slow boat from South America is cheaper and more efficient that shipping by truck halfway across the U.S.! Shipping by truck is one of the biggest U.S. contributions to environmental degradation.

    (This Thursday, the SF Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force, on which I served for nearly a year, is presenting its report to the Board of Supervisors (the city’s law-making body. Amid all the areas of focus —
    Energy, the Economy, Food, Transportation, Infrastructure, etc. — most Task Force members deemed Food Security to be the biggest concern, and there was much research about the fossil-fuel consumption of various shipping methods and distances. In most places in the U.S., we can’t get a balanced sustainable diet from local growers in the region where we live…even more so for California.
    When I was visiting my folks in D.C. in October, I was surprised to find the same organic lettuce and onions — from Earthbound Farms — that I get out here. They come from Watsonville, CA — 60 miles away from where I am — but 2500 miles from D.C.)

    For anyone interested, here’s the Task Force report:

  29. @Caroline (#28): That’s exactly my point – as I understand it, the products we’re talking about are from Taiwan, not PRC, so what the hell do PRC scandals have to do with anything? Quite honestly, I’m picking up a faint air of “those slanty-eyed people are all the same” from this whole discussion.

    And even if PRC scandals were relevant, PRC is a big, big country. I don’t deny that their culture/laws are probably more conducive to scandals than ours are, but I don’t think a small handful of incidents should be taken as an indication of what “business as usual” is like there.

    Also, #26 is Cal, not me.

  30. @32, Caroline

    I looked at the Gardein sites and I know I’ve had two products they make: TJ’s Beef-less strips — nice out of the bag, though they have organic cane sugar — and the Morningstar Farms strips, not quite as satisfying.

    I would prefer to avoid most sugars. I can’t have these: sugar, organic sugar, turbinado sugar, raw sugar, fructose, corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup. I prefer not to have: organic can sugar juice, but find it hard to avoid (and I can’t get any work done after I have any). i can have: barley malt, rice syrup, agave, and fruit juice sweeteners. It’s hard to find a mock meat without sugar.

    Also, you said something about cooking something in a lightly oiled pan. That sounds like cooking.

    I realize that my life isn’t typical of many vegans and that I’m a tough case when it comes to finding solutions, since I am also particular about tastes and textures.

    There’s a new mock meat that I’ve falling in love with. A company called “El Burrito” makes “Soy Ground”. It’s the first ground meat substitute that I really enjoy. Neither Yves nor Lightlife (or whatever it’s called) comes even close. They make “Soy Taco”, “Soy Pepperoni”, “SoyRizo”, which I haven’t tried because I don’t likely highly spicy foods, but “Soy Ground” is only in one Whole Foods in the Bay area so far.

    Here’s my idea of great sandwich:

    Ciabatta (and I’m particular about which bakery this comes from)
    Vegennaise (so much better than Nayonnaise)
    Green Onions
    Soy Ground
    Portabello Mushroom (raw is fine)

    There’s something about the interaction of the mushroom, soy ground, and the vegennaise that’s magical.

  31. @Buzzard, 34: the lack of oversight and regulation in the PRC that caused so many companion animals and children to die and potentially get brain damage from putting lead toys in their mouths are not isolated incidents. They are indicative of a culture that has been newly unleashed to make money but without the legal restraints to stop unethical practices. My criticism is based on fact and has nothing to do with their race. If Sweden or France started to import toys with lead, etc, I’d be all over them too..

  32. @Cal: Maybe if you explain a bit more about why you don’t cook, we’ll be able to help you better. Is it lack of time, lack of equipment, or something else? For me, taking food out of a package and heating it in a pan or in the oven is only minimally more work than heating it in a microwave, so to me, that doesn’t count as “cooking.” But you’re not me, obviously.

  33. @Caroline (#36): And American people/companies never, ever resort to unethical practices for the sake of making money. Right.

    Again, I ask: How is this relevant to Taiwan, which is a *different country* with *different legal restraints*?

  34. To put it a different way, if Sweden were in fact exporting (not importing) toys that contain lead, would it make sense to call for a boycott of products from France? No, it would not. Because France is not the same country as Sweden.

  35. @29, beforewisdom wrote:
    > There is something seriously wrong with your lifestyle…

    (I’m not sure what response make sense, having been told that my lifestyle is wrong… I guess the best thing to do is to try and give folks an idea of what my life is like.)

    I housesit…I’ve done 70 housesits for 47 different people since moving from D.C. 4 years ago. This means that I’m in a different place, with a different kitchen every week or two. (I’ve been in two places with only a hot plate or a microwave, and no oven or stove.) And between housesits, I’m crashing on someone’s couch and may or may not have access to a kitchen. (And Buzzard, I’m with you: I don’t consider heating up a prepared meal to be cooking.) During the hot months, I’d probably go raw foods, but it doesn’t work for me in cooler weather, and we don’t get much hot weather here…highs are in the 60’s this week, though we spiked up to 89 for a day or two over the weekend.

    I use public transit, which means that it takes time to get to meetings, events, etc. Because I’m in different places, it can make me 30 minutes to get to a meeting one month and 2 hours to the same meeting another month.

    My days are completely different from each other. (It’s not within my nature to be consistent…I’ve worked to try to change that, and finally realized that it’s ludicrous to go against my fundamental nature.) The only things that I know I do every single day are breathe, drink water, and pee. I get up at different times, though in general I’m an “equinox” kinda guy — I’m awake about an equal amount in day and night, and the same goes for sleeping. I eat when I’m hungry, and tend to eat many times, with only one “meal” in the evening. I tend to do different things in different houses. (In some, I watch TV late at night…others don’t have a TV.) And depending on what major task I’m working on, my life changes radically, and my day structure can be completely different.
    (This summer I’m working on my book; before that I spent 10+ months on that Task Force; when the men’s group I’m in starts up its semi-annual initiation round, I have a couple of insanely concentrated weeks of activity, followed by an easy time for a few weeks.)

    With all of this, I keep aware of what my body needs to be healthy, and to sustain this unusual lifestyle.

    There are aspects to this that I like and that supports my passion for life. And I live a life expressing myself in power and in service. (I’ve tried twice to move away from housesitting, but each time Life began yanking away what else I have (like my income), so, in surrender, I respond “okay, okay, I get it, I’m not done with this yet.”)

    I’m open to restructuring my time to fit everything in better, yet most time coaches would probably become frustrated at my ever-changing day schemes.

  36. I concur with others, let’s please stop talking about China, since these mock meats come from Taiwan.

  37. Buzzard,
    Some of the mock meats for sale at the store i was referencing do come from China mainland. And since the PRC has had even more problems than Taiwan with lack of regulations for a variety of industries, it’s a pretty safe bet that they also could be putting meat/eggs in vegan mock meats, even tho there hasn’t been any examples so far. If this happened in Sweden, and multiple other European countries showed a similar pattern of contaminting a variety of products, I’d want to boycott faux meat from them too.

  38. I think it’s relevant to bring up China- the melamine in pet food, lead in toys, etc shows that our gov’t on the US side isn’t doing a great job of testing imports.

  39. @Cal;

    Do you have numbers for the claim that shipping leaves a smaller footprint versus trucking? If so, how significant is the difference? Wouldn’t faux “faux meats” from Taiwan also go on a truck ride once the shipment reached our west coast?

  40. I’m not the task force member that did the research. However, the report is for SF, and I wasn’t thinking about shipping from coast to coast, so that probably does mean trucking 2500 miles. Interesting how this can have a different eco impact being on one coast versus the other.

  41. Can’t they ship things straight from Asia to the east coast? I thought that that was what the Panama Canal was for.

  42. A number of faux meats are other foods are perishables. Trucking across country may be quicker and a time window may be rapidly closing from the slow boat from Asia. A truck can also stop and make deliveries of the product in the US interior along the way. A slow boat coming from Asia, going down through the Panama Canal and then up North can’t.

  43. Most of the faux meats from Asia that I’ve seen are either frozen or canned – either way, not particularly perishable. And it seems to me – although I admit that I do not know – that most US importers of Asian products are going to want to be ordering the stuff by the truckload, or at least a large fraction of a truckload. Having a single truck make deliveries to Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Omaha, and Chicago (or wherever) before taking what’s left to Rockville seems to me like it would be a really inefficient way of doing things.

  44. I think it’s relevant to bring up China- the melamine in pet food, lead in toys, etc shows that our gov’t on the US side isn’t doing a great job of testing imports.

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