Transglutaminase and beef fibrin, often called meat glue, is an ingredient used across the food industry to hold together smaller cuts of meat, poultry, and fish that’s been used for decades. Meat glue itself isn’t considered dangerous by most, but there is a larger fear of food borne illness when small pieces of meat, sourced from different places, are held together.
The FDA says the ingredient is “generally recognized as safe” but consumers have been grossed out by the idea that they could be eating beef tenderloin that’s actually tiny little pieces of beef glued together and sold at a higher cost.
Meat glue is actually a powder added to meat and rolled up in plastic wrap. The meat is refrigerated for 6 hours and the result is a solid piece of meat that’s seemingly impossible to tell from the real thing.
Like pink slime, the practice has endured harsh public scrutiny as much because of a lack of transparency as anything else. But meat glue, unlike pink slime, is labeled. The ammonia used in pink slime isn't listed on any ingredient labels because it's considered a "processing agent" even though it's completely misleading to think that it doesn't end up in the final product.
The Industry Responds
But even if it’s listed very few people actually knew what it was until recently. In an effort to ensure that meat glue doesn't endure the same fate as pink slime, the meat industry is responding to recent criticism.
Food Safety News reports:
"We're definitely making an effort to engage," said Janet Riley, the head of public affairs for the American Meat Institute, which represents the major players in the meat industry. Riley has made a point of addressing transparency concerns head on, noting that the practice of using TG and beef fibrin is "absolutely not a secret."
And is it safe? Again, Food Safety News:
Dana Hanson, an extension meat scientist at North Carolina State University, said that it is possible that different cuts put together could be more susceptible to contamination by potentially introducing pathogens into the center of a pieced-together steak. But Hanson said that federal cooking recommendations would be sufficient to kill any bacteria.
But once again, public input is making the food industry shutter in fear of a negative reaction and without a doubt, transparency is a good thing.
Beef Suppliers say Meat Glue Safe By Stephanie Armour on 8 May 2012 for Bloomberg News - (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-07/beef-industry-disputes-meat-glue-safety-allegations.html) Video above: "Meat Glue Secret" reveals premium price for combinming meat cuts. From (http://youtu.be/hXXrB3rz-xU). Beef producers said the depiction of meat glue by consumer activists is unfair and the industry’s practice of using transglutaminase to bind pieces of meat into a single cut is safe.
The American Meat Institute, a Washington-based trade group that includes Cargill Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN), released information showing how transglutaminase is used in dairy, seafood and baked goods as well as in beef for texture or to bind cuts together. Transglutaminase is an enzyme sold for almost two decades and has inaccurately been nicknamed meat glue for “shock appeal,” the group said yesterday in a statement.
“Someone gave it a catchy name, so now it’s catching on,” Jeremy Russell, a spokesman with the National Meat Association, another industry lobbying group, said in an interview.
The industry is trying to gain control of the debate over transglutaminase after a public backlash earlier this year over ammonia-treated beef scraps that consumer activists dubbed “pink slime” led to lost business for Beef Products Inc. and other companies. California state Senator Ted Lieu, a Democrat, last week called for a U.S. Agriculture Department investigation into transglutaminase because of potential contamination risks.
“Food suppliers, restaurants, and banquet facilities should not be deceiving the public into thinking they are eating a whole steak if, in fact, the steak was glued together from various meat parts,” Lieu said in a letter to the agency.Consumer Deception
He said in an interview yesterday that it would be unfair for consumers to pay the same for meat pieced together as they would for steak from one cow.
“I just don’t think consumers should be paying more.”
Packaged meat products made with transglutaminase must be labeled as formed or reformed, the American Meat Institute said. The group said it’s unaware of any food safety issues.
Consumer groups say sticking together cuts from different animals to form a muscle meat increases the chances of E. coli or other contamination. Comments slamming the practice have been popping up on Twitter and Facebook following news stories.
“It’s consumer deception,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Yonkers, New York-based Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. “When you see a muscle cut, you think it comes from one animal, not a jigsaw from a number of sources.”Meat Contamination
Exterior contamination on a single cut of beef is often destroyed during cooking, according to Consumers Union. By piecing together meat with the enzyme, exterior contamination may get inside the final product and may not be killed if the meat is served rare or medium rare, Lieu said in his letter.
“Proper cooking is recommended for all raw beef products, but there’s not a contamination issue,” said Russell, with the National Meat Association.
In addition to the spotlight on meat glue and pink slime, the U.S. industry last month was struck by its first case of mad cow disease in six years. Indonesia suspended meat imports after the U.S. reported the disease in a California dairy cow, prompting cattle futures on April 24 to tumble to a nine-month low.
A petition drive in March against pink slime, or lean finely textured ground beef, caused demand for ground beef to drop to the lowest amount for that month in a decade. Video above: Newsy.com film concerning risk versus revulsion in certain food processing of meat. From (http://www.newsy.com/videos/meat-glue-potentially-harmful-for-consumers-meat-industry/#ooid=FndnRvNDrFOWL3ZGuDVEJFmBcmQNBhMi)
[IB Editor's note: Poultry paste is a blend of skin, tendons, cartilage, eyeballs, etc used in chicken nuggets, hotdogs and bologna.].