It is a scenario that many manufacturers and operators feared was only a matter of time – a customer has taken legal action against a restaurant after alleging a plant-based patty he ordered was cooked on the same grill used for meat.
In a move that could have huge implications for future commercial kitchen design and equipment specification, a proposed class action filed in the US by Philip Williams against Burger King states that the way its ‘Impossible Whopper’ is grilled leaves it “coated in meat by-products”.
According to a report by the BBC, the lawsuit filed in a Miami federal court claims the burger chain does not clearly advertise that the plant-based burgers are cooked with meat.
Mr Williams says that he visited a drive-through restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, and ordered the Impossible Whopper without mayonnaise.
At no point was he told the Whopper was cooked on the same grill as the meat burgers, he said – adding that, had he known, he would not have ordered it, the BBC reported.
Mr Williams is said to want damages for everyone in the US who bought the Impossible Whopper, as well as an injunction requiring Burger King to “plainly disclose” that the vegan burgers and meat burgers are cooked on the same equipment.
The BBC said Burger King had not commented on the matter, but noted that the small print on its website says people wanting a meat-free option can request “a non-broiler method of preparation”.
One multi-site operator told FEJ this week that the growth in veganism and an increased focus around allergens was making it think carefully about the need for separate pieces of equipment to prevent any cross-contamination. It said one of the main challenges was finding room in kitchens that are already typically squeezed for space.
A raft of cooking equipment manufacturers claim to have developed multi-chamber ovens and other appliances to assist with this.
The meatless product at the centre of the Burger King dispute has just been launched in the UK market, as well as 24 other European countries.
A spokeswoman for Impossible Foods, which supplies the vegan burger, told Reuters that vegetarians and vegans are welcome to ask for their Impossible Whopper to be cooked in a microwave.