Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a statement rejecting claims by an American organisation that the mycoprotein Quorn is unsafe.
The US Centre for Science in the Public Interest sent the Agency details of some people who reported that they had reacted against Quorn and said it should be withdrawn from sale.
However FSA director of food safety policy Jon Bell told the CSPI: "Any protein containing food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction. When Quorn was approved for use in the UK some 15 years ago it was first trialled in the company's restaurant and then in one region of the UK. Allergy clinics were asked to report any change in the normal pattern of food intolerance with which they were dealing at that time.
As a result of these studies it was known that there was a low level of intolerance to the product amongst the UK population."
He also cited a further study carried out in 1994 which put the intolerance level at one in 200,000 and suggested that the latest figure of one in 146,000 is not unexpected and did not change the position.
"Given this level of intolerance and the fact that some 13 million units of this product were sold in 2000 alone it is not really surprising that you have been able to find people who appear to be intolerant to it," he said.
"However, it is important to recognise that several commonly consumed foods and food ingredients have much higher intolerance levels than this. For example, the intolerance to soya is reported to be one in 300 and that to shellfish, even higher," said Bell.
The agency said that those who are intolerant to Quorn are able to avoid it by studying the label (the company has apparently recently agreed to make further improvements to the way that this material is described) and concluded that "on present evidence, it would not be right to prevent those people who currently enjoy this product from being able to continue to purchase it if they wish."