A fake meat that is made from fungus, but looks and tastes like chicken, has arrived in US supermarkets. In Europe, the meat substitute rivals soy burgers and similar products in popularity.

"Known as mycoprotein, it is marketed under the trade name Quorn and made into a variety of products, including chicken-like nuggets, lasagna and fetticcine Alfredo - even as alternative to ground beef, called 'grounds'", according to a report by CNN.

Scientists found the fungus growing on farms west of London in the 1960s and discovered that its long strands could be made into a product that mimicked the fibrous tissue of meat. The fungus is now grown through fermentation, mixed with eggs and flavourings and fashioned into imitation chicken or beef.

The report says that the product was developed by a subsidiary of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and introduced in Britain in 1985. "It is now eaten in one out of 20 British households, the company says, and is sold in 6 other European countries. It arrived in US stores in January after getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," according to the report.

It adds that labels on Quorn products say that mycoprotein "comes from a small, unassuming member of the mushroom family, which we ferment like yoghurt." 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest complained to the FDA about the label, saying that the agency should not have approved mycoprotein without requiring more review of its potential to cause allergic reactions because it has been consumed in the USA before.

A serving of Quorn nuggets has 180 calories, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of fibre and no cholesterol. A 10.6 ounce of the product sells for US$3.69 in a Washington-area stores. The report notes that Quorn's maker had US$150m sales in Europe last year and is projecting 20% growth this year with the US introduction.