Beyond Meat patties for sale on November 15, 2019 in New York City (AFP / Angela Weiss)

Canola oil, used in meat substitutes, is safe

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An Instagram post claims that canola oil -- an ingredient in plant-based alternatives to meat -- is toxic. This is false; nutritionists say the oil is not harmful for humans to consume, and it is recognized as safe by US regulators.

“When people try to tell me Beyond/Impossible ‘meat’ is healthier than beef,” says text in an April 6, 2021 Instagram video. “Canola oil is TOXIC. Ultra processed. Just bc something is labeled as ‘plant based’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy,” the text claims.

Screenshot of an Instagram post, taken April 19, 2021

The video is circulating after Beyond Meat in early 2021 signed partnerships with McDonald’s and Yum! Brands, the parent of KFC and other fast foods, as demand surges for better-tasting meat alternatives.

Expeller-pressed canola oil is among the ingredients listed in Beyond Meat products.

Canola oil is “generally recognized as safe” by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a conclusion affirmed by a nutrition specialist at the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit American medical research and treatment center.

“Health concerns about canola oil are unfounded,” wrote Katherine Zeratsky, a Mayo Clinic registered dietitian responding to the question: “I've read that canola oil contains toxins. Is this true?”

“Misinformation about canola oil may stem from the fact that the canola plant was developed through crossbreeding with the rapeseed plant,” Zeratsky said on the Clinic website.

“Rapeseed oil contains very high levels of erucic acid, a compound that in large amounts can be toxic to humans. Canola oil, however, contains very low levels of erucic acid.”

Guy Crosby, Adjunct Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, also addressed concerns about whether commercially processed canola oil is harmful.

He concluded, it “is a safe and healthy form of fat that will reduce blood LDL cholesterol levels and heart disease risk compared to carbohydrates or saturated fats such as found in beef tallow or butter.” However, overheating and burning of oils should be avoided to prevent damaging the “healthy-promoting fatty acids” they contain, Crosby added.

In 2018, the FDA said there was credible evidence to support the qualified health claim that consuming oleic acid in canola and other edible oils "may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”