Mmmmm, Quorn!

Quorn, the food named after the place, is a product of Marlow Foods Ltd, a division of AstraZeneca. Quorn is made from the fungus Fusarium venenatum.

Quorn is low fat and contains good amounts of protein and fibre. However, be sure to check your dish – some products in the Quorn range are not low fat, due to other fatty ingredients used. The Quorn products of Marlow Foods are not vegan as egg white and milk solids are used. Worse, the eggs come from battery hens.

At first I had misgivings about Quorn. The taste was just too meaty. I didn’t become a vegetarian in order to pretend to eat meat. But now I have gotten used to the taste and Quorn has become a regular part of my diet.

It is true that Marlow Foods was smacked down in 2002 by the British Advertising Standards Authority over labelling Quorn as 'Mushroom in origin’ when in fact it comes from a fungus that does not form mushrooms.

All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms. But IMHO it is an overstatment to compare the differences between Fusarium venenatum and mushroom to those between human and octopus as the anti-Quorn site does.

And by the way, yummy, lovely mushrooms are fruiters but not sexual reproducers. Mushroom-producing fungi do exchange genes, but not at that phase of the life cycle.

Technically, the quorn fungus in its natural state lives in soil not on unwashed toes. For food, it is grown in large vats. This process is refered to as fermentation not because the quorn is being fermented, but because the Quorn fungus is the agent of fermentation that creates proteins from the raw nutrients.

There is a fascinating USA FDA report online that includes data such as:

Mycoprotein is the processed cellular mass that is obtained from the filamentous fungus Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684. F. venenatum strain PTA-2684 derives from a soil sample obtained from Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom. Because the predominant component of the cellular mass derived from F. venenatum strain PTA-2684 is protein, and because "myco" is a prefix that means fungus, Marlow calls the processed cellular mass "mycoprotein." The filamentous nature of the cells gives the cellular mass a meat-like texture that makes it suitable for a variety of applications in food, including use as a muscle replacer in meat-alternative products. Mycoprotein also can be used as a fat replacer in certain dairy products and as a cereal replacer in products such as breakfast cereals or puffed snacks.

The protein content of mycoprotein typically ranges from 42 to 50 percent on a dry weight basis. Marlow considers that mycoprotein is a high quality protein because mycoprotein contains all of the essential amino acids.

The fat content of mycoprotein typically ranges from 12 to 14 percent on a dry weight basis. Marlow considers that this fat content is more like vegetable fat than animal fat because it has a low proportion of saturated fatty acids and a high proportion of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The fungus is grown aerobically under steady-state conditions maintained by a continuous feed of nutrients and simultaneous removal of the culture. To prevent mycotoxin synthesis, the production strain is grown at a high rate without any nutritional limitations. To ensure such conditions, the culture is supplied with a nutritionally balanced chemically defined fermentation medium containing easily metabolizable nutrients, including glucose as a sole carbon source. The medium is provided at a rate that allows the cells to grow at a specific growth rate of at least 0.17 per hour. The biomass removed from the fermenter is rapidly heated by injection of steam. The rapid heating process kills the cells. The fermentation broth is subsequently separated from the cellular mass by centrifugation.
    - US FDA Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000091

It may be true, as some reports of "diarrhoea and vomiting" suggest, that Quorn causes a small number of people to be violently ill. So what? Many foodstuffs, for example nuts, shellfish, dairy and wheat cause bad reactions to the small numbers of people who are allergic to them. Should all those products be banned? I think not. If it doesn’t work for you, then don’t eat it.

Some consider Quorn to be fast food as most Quorn products are microwavable frozen dinners.

Some consider it to be "far from the soil" and not a "natural" food as it is grown in vats, processed and artificially flavoured and coloured.

Despite being entirely vegetarian, Quorn is not as low on the food chain as plants such as soy. Like an animal, the Quorn fungus must feed upon glucose produced by a photosynthesising plant. It's probably more energy-efficient at doing this than a cow, but is still a saprophyte not a green plant.

Some consider Quorn to be futuristic, as it fits the 1950's sci-fi ideas of future foods being grown in underground vats. It certainly does fit the trend of late 20th century English food being highly processed industrially made products.

Nevertheless, it is a good source of tasty vegetarian protein. Quorn has been eaten in Britain since 1985, and in 2002 it entered the US market.

My feeding habits, the official site CSPI Quorn complaints, an anti-Quorn site the place USA FDA stuff
And other sites that google threw up.