When Burger King introduced its BK Veggie Burger in 2002 (story below), the patty was vegan even though the bun and mayonnaise were not because they contained butter and eggs. Since that time, the fast food company has reformulated the patty that now contains both eggs and dairy. The current patty has soy as one of the ingrediens, while the original did not. The Sesame Seed Bun is relatively unchanged and devoid of any nutritional value.
The VIP tasters sampled the original BK Veggie Burger that was warmed slightly in the microwave to avoid contamination by the animal products cooked on the grill.
In information supplied by the company and printed below, the product is definitely not vegan because of egg whites and calcium caseinate (derived from milk).
Ingredients in BK VEGGIE« BURGER PATTY
Vegetables (Mushrooms, Water Chestnuts, Onions, Carrots, Green Bell Peppers, Red Bell Peppers, Black Olives), Textured Vegetable Protein
(Soy Protein Concentrate, Wheat Gluten, Water for hydration), Egg Whites, Cooked Brown Rice (Water, Brown Rice), Rolled Oats, Corn Oil,
Calcium Caseinate, Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Wheat), Onion Powder, Corn Starch, Salt, Hydrolyzed Corn, Soy, and Wheat Protein,
Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural Flavors from non-meat sources, Sugar, Soy Protein Isolate, Spices, Garlic Powder, Dextrose, Jalape˝o Pepper
Powder, Celery Extract. Contains Egg, Wheat, Soy.
April 5, 2002 -- Vegparadise News Bureau
" The Burger King VeggieBurger is not positioned to be a vegetarian or vegan burger. It was designed to be a meatless alternative." These were the words VIP heard when we called Burger King headquarters in Miami, Florida.
The customer relations person continued by saying, "The veggie burger has reduced-fat mayonnaise that contains egg products, and the bun has natural and artificial butter flavor."
Those items would make the bun and the mayonnaise objectionable to vegans but not necessarily to ovo-lacto vegetarians.
What he did not indicate was that both the bun and the mayonnaise contain polysorbate 60 that is derived from animal products. The patty, produced by Worthington Foods (now owned by Kellogg's), is vegetarian but does contain sugar that would make it objectionable to vegans.
The veggie sandwich has far fewer calories and much less fat than the full-scale Whopper. The BK Veggie contains 10 grams of fat, 2g saturated, and 14 grams of protein with a calorie total of 330. The Whopper statistics include 39 grams of fat and 29 grams of protein with 680 calories.
We posed a simple question to the Burger King representative. "If the sandwich has 10 grams of fat and 2 are saturated, what is the nature of the other 8 grams?" He was unable to answer.
Current food labels do not require food companies to list trans-fats, those artery-clogging fats that are now considered more dangerous than saturated fats. Companies only indicate monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats. If the numbers don't add up, there are probably trans-fats in the product.
Vegetarians who order the BK VEGGIE should specify that they want it cooked away from the Whoppers. To make certain, they should request it be microwaved. To cut down on the fat or to avoid the animal ingredients in the bun and the mayonnaise, they may want to order just the patty with lettuce and tomato, and supplement it with a side salad.
The 66-gram patty by itself is only 140 calories with 4 grams of fat, only 0.5 saturated. It offers 9 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and no cholesterol.
Vegan activist Erik Marcus, author of Vegan, the New Ethics of Eating and sponsor of websites http://www.erikmarkus.com and http://www.vegan.com appealed to the vegetarian community to support the Burger King effort. "The Burger King Veggie Burger represents an unprecedented opportunity in the vegetarian movement's history," he says, "but if the burger flops, it might set the growth of the movement back ten years."
Marcus, who has not eaten fast foods for 15 years, did his own taste test. "I bit into it, and it was delicious," he reported. "The burger had great texture and flavor. Everything tasted fresh. Even the tomatoes were excellent -- quite a trick for Upstate New York in March."
Like Marcus, VIP believes that restaurant efforts to offer vegetarian options should be supported. We want these foods to succeed in the marketplace so that more vegan and vegetarian items will appear on menus.
Unfortunately, VIP does not agree with Marcus's evaluation and cannot sincerely recommend the BK Veggie Burger. Our lunch test included ordering a microwaved patty with a side salad without the cheese. The patty was not delicious, the texture was not pleasing, and it tasted fatty.
As a sandwich the BK Veggie Burger is neither vegetarian nor vegan. After reading the ingredient list, we have decided it is a chemical meal instead of a wholesome sandwich. Without the bun, it is not even a satisfying meal, even with a side salad. We feel the BK Veggie Burger is just plain junk food.
For another view, VIP dispatched the VeggieTaster to a local Burger King to report back to our readers on this new product. For that review click on the VeggieTaster Report.
As a public service, VIP is printing the patty's list of ingredients that might not be readily available at the local Burger King. The company provides the information.
Ingredient Listing for Patty
Ingredient Listing for 4" Bun
Ingredient Listing for Reduced-Fat Mayonnaise