Plant-based burgers can be vegan, that doesn't necessarily mean they're prepared that way.


It might've sounded like a timely prank, but on April 1 when Burger King announced that it was testing a plant-based Whopper, the brand was totally serious. The fast food chain added the Impossible Whopper to the menus at 59 restaurants in and around St. Louis, before ultimately rolling it out nationwide.

In the months since, the Impossible Whopper has become one of Burger King's most successful product launches ever—and it's done so well that it'll soon be serving plant-based Whoppers at more than 2,500 stores scattered throughout 25 countries in Europe. (It's also just been added to the kids' menu at a number of restaurants here in the States.)

Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

But one customer, Phillip Williams, isn't as wowed by the Impossible Whopper as everyone else seems to be, and he's filed a proposed class action lawsuit in an attempt to explain why. Reuters reports that Williams, who is vegan, ordered that particular burger at an Atlanta drive-through, and he was shocked—shocked!—to discover that the plant-based patty was allegedly "coated in meat by-products." According to the lawsuit, the presence of such by-products invalidates the burger's "100% Whopper 0% Beef" slogan.

Williams says that Burger King needs to "plainly disclose" that the Impossible Whoppers and the OG beef Whoppers are cooked on the same grills. Burger King declined to comment on pending litigation, but in the burger chain's defense it doesn't use the word 'vegetarian' or 'vegan' or any related synonyms anywhere in its description of the burger (and it's probably safe to assume Burger King's attorneys are already aware of that).

Burger King's website does have a small-print disclaimer informing guests who want a "meat-free option" that a "non-broiler method of preparation is available upon request." (And according to Dana Worth, the head of sales for Impossible Foods, "non-broiler method" means "microwave.")

Burger King seems to have deliberately sidestepped the v-word(s), previously suggesting that the Impossible Whopper was designed as a slightly healthier, more sustainable option for meat-eaters. "[Burger King hopes to] give somebody who wants to eat a burger every day, but doesn't necessarily want to eat beef everyday, permission to come into the restaurants more frequently," Chris Finazzo, the president of Burger King North America, told CNN Business in April.

On the Impossible Foods website, the company instructs its Food Service customers to describe its burger patties by their name—Impossible—rather than calling them veggie burgers, vegan, or even plant-based. "Yes, Impossible meat is plant-based, but it wasn’t made for vegans," the company says. "It’s actually made for people who love meat."