Quorn Foods has insisted it will mount a defence against what it termed a "misguided" lawsuit attempting to link consumption of one of its meat-replacement products to the death of an 11-year-old boy in 2013. 

In a lawsuit filed in the US yesterday (25 March), the family of Miles Bengco argued a Quorn Turk'y Burger was like a "deadly poison" to the boy, who was allergic to mold. The lawsuit asserts the child suffered a fatal "severe anaphylactic reaction" after eating the meat-replacement product. Neither the family nor medical workers "knew or had any reason to suspect" that his condition was the result of the "mold" he ingested in the Quorn burger, the lawsuit states. 

Quorn rebuffed the claims and insisted the company's products are safe. A spokesperson for the group said the UK-based group will "vigorously defend" the company and the safety of its products against the allegations.  

The spokesperson added: "We categorically reject the claims made by attorneys representing the Bengco family that our products were in any way associated with this tragic event…. the attempt to blame the child’s death on his ingestion of mycoprotein, Quorn’s key ingredient, is inaccurate and unsubstantiated."

According to Quorn, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner concluded the boy died from an asthma attack. The autopsy report noted the child suffered from "poorly controlled" asthma that required several asthma-maintenance medications. However, he had not received any medication for the month prior to his death, having been placed on an organic diet in lieu of medication.

The lawsuit prompted fresh criticism of Quorn from US consumer watchdog the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has long called for the US Food and Drug Administration to remove the brand from the market.

"It is regrettable and sad that the family of young Miles Bengco had to suffer because of the failure of the Food and Drug Administration to stop the sale of the vat-grown soil fungus known as mycoprotein, the main ingredient in Quorn meat substitutes. And how shameful of Marlow Foods to market this deceptively labeled product with no warning whatsoever considering that for more than a decade Quorn has been known to cause severe adverse reactions," CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said. "The FDA needs to pull this dangerous meat substitute off of grocers’ shelves to prevent this innocently labeled product from causing more deaths."

In response, the meat-free supplier said the CSPI's comments were a continuation of "its dishonest campaign to mislead the public about Quorn Foods with reckless statements questioning the safety of our products".

The company added: "Quorn’s safety is well established. Our products have been validated by the world’s most stringent food safety regulators, including, among others, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the UK Food Standards Agency. 
"With the help of third-party scientific and medical experts, Quorn Foods has consistently undertaken genuine, critical assessments of our products and any consumer issues that arise. Likewise, we have taken a nearly two-year, hard and honest look at the Bengco counsels' claims. We sympathise with them and the tragic loss that they have endured, but the attempt to ameliorate this tragedy by way of a lawsuit against Quorn Foods is misguided."