Is Meat Glue Safe?

Is Meat Glue Safe?
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Used in about eight million pounds of meat every year in the United States, the “meat glue” enzyme, transglutaminase, has potential food safety and allergy implications.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The so-called meat glue enzyme, transglutaminase, is used by the industry to add value by gluing together smaller scraps into a larger chunk. And, not just to make fake steak. The American Meat Institute estimates it’s used in about eight million pounds of meat every year in the United States. It “can be used to cross-link pieces of [any type of] meat, fish, or meat product,” hence can be used to produce large chunks of virtually intact-looking meat or fish out of small meat or fish cuttings. In fact, when these researchers actually tested for it in 20 samples of meat from the supermarket, they only found meat glue in salmon and turkey. I mean, how else are you going to get an improvement in “gelling properties” of minced lizardfish?

Where does meat glue come from? For decades, the sole commercial source of transglutaminase was from the livers of guinea pigs. Now, it can be sourced much cheaper. However, the future of meat glue remains “uncertain” because of, as meat scientists describe, “communication difficulties.”

One of the reasons the industry is so excited about this stuff is because using meat glue enzymes, “restructured” meat can be made “from under utilized portions of the carcasses.” For example, you can get away with adding up to 5% tendons, and some people can’t even tell the difference. This has raised food safety concerns, though. There’s “a risk that otherwise discarded leftovers of questionable microbial quality could find their way into the reconstituted meat.”

You can actually take a microscope, and see introduced E. coli O157:H7 “along the glue lines where meat pieces were enzymatically attached”—which shows that “the restructuring process” can translocate fecal matter “surface contamination into the interior” of the meat.

Furthermore, people who have problems with gluten may develop problems when ingesting meat treated with the meat glue enzyme, since it “functions as an auto-antigen capable of inducing an autoimmune reaction.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The so-called meat glue enzyme, transglutaminase, is used by the industry to add value by gluing together smaller scraps into a larger chunk. And, not just to make fake steak. The American Meat Institute estimates it’s used in about eight million pounds of meat every year in the United States. It “can be used to cross-link pieces of [any type of] meat, fish, or meat product,” hence can be used to produce large chunks of virtually intact-looking meat or fish out of small meat or fish cuttings. In fact, when these researchers actually tested for it in 20 samples of meat from the supermarket, they only found meat glue in salmon and turkey. I mean, how else are you going to get an improvement in “gelling properties” of minced lizardfish?

Where does meat glue come from? For decades, the sole commercial source of transglutaminase was from the livers of guinea pigs. Now, it can be sourced much cheaper. However, the future of meat glue remains “uncertain” because of, as meat scientists describe, “communication difficulties.”

One of the reasons the industry is so excited about this stuff is because using meat glue enzymes, “restructured” meat can be made “from under utilized portions of the carcasses.” For example, you can get away with adding up to 5% tendons, and some people can’t even tell the difference. This has raised food safety concerns, though. There’s “a risk that otherwise discarded leftovers of questionable microbial quality could find their way into the reconstituted meat.”

You can actually take a microscope, and see introduced E. coli O157:H7 “along the glue lines where meat pieces were enzymatically attached”—which shows that “the restructuring process” can translocate fecal matter “surface contamination into the interior” of the meat.

Furthermore, people who have problems with gluten may develop problems when ingesting meat treated with the meat glue enzyme, since it “functions as an auto-antigen capable of inducing an autoimmune reaction.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to außerirdische sind gesundScott Ashkenaz, and Acrossthesea via flickr

Nota del Doctor

Some meat additives, however, may actually improve food safety. See Meat Additives to Diminish ToxicityViral Meat Spray and Maggot Meat Spray.

Most need not worry about gluten sensitivity, though. See my video Is Gluten Bad For You?

For more on E. coli O157:H7, see Meat May Exceed Daily Allowance of Irony. For those interested in the politics of this “Jack-in-the-Box” strain, see my blog posts E. coli O145 Ban Opposed by Meat Industry and Supreme Court case: meat industry sues to keep downed animals in food supply. From a population perspective, the E. coli in chicken is more of a concern; see Avoiding Chicken To Avoid Bladder Infections.

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