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

Doctor's Note

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.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

21 responses to “Is Meat Glue Safe?

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  1. As a person with Celiac Disease, I found this video very interesting. It just shows that when you eat an animal product, you really don’t know what you are eating. Most Celiac patients think meat is a “safe” product and tend to increase their consumption as they exclude gluten containing foods. Fruits and vegetables are the safe foods!




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  2. I just find the whole topic of meat glue disturbing. I heard about it a few years ago and it was just another nail in the casket of my omnivorous life. Very glad to be vegan yet again!




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  3. Hi Doc, I am not sure what the point was that you were trying to make regarding the source of TG. I did not understand the reference to the “communication issue”. Are Guinea Pigs still used as the primary source? I understand that is hard to communicate with a Guinea Pig but surely that was just a joke and I did not see the alternative connection.




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  4. I also found this information a supplier of meat glue in Australia.

    “Transglutaminase (TG) Sprinkle Powder (Activa KS-LS). This enzyme has the revolutionary ability to improve the physical properties of protein containing foods. Many forms of transglutamase are manufactured by Ajinomoto in Japan. The one we are selling is the only one approved for use in food manufacturing in Australia. TG causes proteins to bind together through an enzyme reaction. This binding cannot be broken even when frozen, cooked or sliced. There is also no pH shift involved when using this product.

    How is Transglutaminase (TG) Manufactured? TG is made by means of fermentation. Starch and other raw materials are used and when fermentation is over, all transglutaminase producing microorganisms are completely removed.

    What if we require bulk quantities of meat glue after our test batch works? This is not a problem we can supply you 1kg bags or even 10kg for industrial applications. The main concern would be to maintain fresh stock levels at all time. Activity of the activa meat glue will diminish over time.

    A Handy Hint about meat glue. Meat glue loves gelatin. The protein structures in gelatin work really well with Meat Glue. So why is this important? Well if something does not have a protein component eg grains or pulses add some gelatin and the meat glue will bond with the gelatin. Opens up a whole new area of ideas, let us know how you go.




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  5. Hi Nutrition Facts team

    I would like to hear your views on high temperature food cooking of meats. Is it just possible that many of the adverse effects associated with meat consumption are mainly due to the carcinogens produced by higher temperature methods (bbq, grill, oven, fry) and that meats cooked at lower temperatures (soup, stew, curry) are considerably safer ?

    Also, this caught my attention from ‘Meat Science’ (!) and is worth a read – some good graphics too – The role of red and processed meat in colorectal cancer development: A review, based on findings from a workshop – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174014000564




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    1. photoMaldives: While you certainly identified one problem with meats, high temperature cooking, or cooking at all, are not the only problems. The saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat embedded in meat is going to be a problem no matter how you cook it. As is the problem that you can’t get away from the animal protein, a substance that likely encourages cancer growth. (See the series of videos on this site regarding IGF-1, the one stop cancer shop.)

      Bottom line: a healthy diet does not include meat or includes very, very little.

      For the tip of the ice burg on our evidence against meat:

      http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/meat/

      Hope that helps.




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  6. As someone suffering with severe osteoporosis and controlling pain and inflammation by eating vegan, I can better understand the reason so many people and animals are sick given the way our government allows us to be poisoned, and meat glue is no exception.
    When you eat higher on the food chain, like meat, you don’t know what it’s being fed like organisms from other species, incessant use of extremely toxic weed killers (and mineral chelators) and additives like meat glue. This is a great reason for eating organic vegan.
    Blood tests done recently found everything in the healthy normal range, which I attribute to organic as well as vegan food consumption. I don’t eat processed and only eat for health, and now my newly adopted kitten does as well. No meat glue for her, or us.




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  7. As far as I’ve learned, transglutaminase is an enzyme we all make in order to maintain the functional structure of our intestinal villi. Celiacs produce an IgA antibody to the glutenine fraction of gluten that cross-reacts with transglutaminase and takes it out of service, leading to the collapse of the villi and resulting absorption-of-nutrient issues. Nonceliac gluten-sensitives have other issues.




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  8. Hi nutritionfacts, thanks for the video. Can you share what scholarly peer revied studeis have you used to come to this conclusions? I have access to most databases. Thank you in advance




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    1. Gaston: Look to the right of the video. You should see button titled, “Sources Cited”. After you click the button, the studies used in the video will appear in the box below the video. NutritionFacts includes a link to the studies when available. But as you probably know, a lot of videos are behind a paywall. So, if you have access to the studies, that’s great.




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  9. Didn’t answer the Question – is it Safe or NOT?
    a Yes or No Answer would suffice, or if you have no medical issues it’s safe but if you have adverse reactions to gluten etc then it’s NOT Safe – Support the Consumer!!!




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