It never fails to astonish me when I find out another underhanded industry accepted adulteration of food. Just the other day I read about an additive to meat that is not identified clearly in restaurants or catering halls, that involves adding a potential allergen or worse to food and that may cause illness in certain instances. It is just as disgusting as Pink Slime.
It’s called meat glue and apparently it is used commonly in the meat industry. They take cheap cuts of meat and essentially glue them together with a substance called transglutaminase. They push the glued meat into a form that shapes it to look like an expensive cut like filet mignon, but it is really made from cheap stew meat.
According to an article in the journal Food Science, microbial transglutaminase (MTGase) is a useful method for producing restructured meat (I like that term). They also discussed the fact that,
Meat cubes in combination with MTGase and sodium caseinate showed acceptable bind, and sodium caseinate (this is milk derived) appeared to be a superior substrate for the crosslinking to meat proteins than soy protein, whey protein, or gelatin.
That suggests to me that it is not only MTGase that is added to the meat, but also any of the above substances including but not limited to maltodextrin (which may be derived from wheat) soy protein, whey protein (a milk product), sodium caseinate (a milk product) or gelatin.
And you thought a steak was a steak.
What is it?
It is an enzyme called tranglutaminase that used to be obtained from animal blood but is now produced from bacteria. It is a powder that is used to thoroughly coat the meat. It is very sticky and will bond the meat together.
Importantly, it is also an active enzyme in the blood clotting system in our body. Without it, our blood would not clot. How does extra transglutaminase affect our blood clotting mechanisms? No one knows. The study showing it is safe was performed by Ajinomoto, the product’s manufacturer. No surprise there.
Interestingly, tissue tranglutaminase is also found in human intestines, but that is not the same form of transglutaminase that’s found in meat glue. People with celiac disease, make antibodies to their own tissue transglutaminase enzyme, causing the immune systems to attack their intestinal linings.
Since the form of transglutaminase found in meat glue is not the same as the enzyme normally found in our intestines, it shouldn’t affect celiacs, theoretically. But what if it does? Steak used to be the safest item on a menu for someone with digestive conditions or people on special diets.
FDA says it is GRAS
The FDA says it is generally recognized as safe. While it may be listed on an industry label that the cooks see, the consumer does not know that they are eating a glued meat product.
If transglutaminase meat glue is used in a product, it must be identified on the ingredients label as “TG enzyme,” “enzyme” or “TGP enzyme.” Additionally, meats that contain transglutaminase will be labeled as formed or reformed. However, these labels are not seen by customers in restaurants or guests at partys in catering halls.
Lets display it on the menu
Do you think these will sell?
Transglutaminase handling instructions
Click here for some interesting MTGase handling instructions, that involves sniffing the meat to make sure the glue is good. If it smells like “wet dog” it is good. Users are cautioned not to breath it in.
Meat glue poses health risks
The problem is that the outer surface of a steak is exposed to many types of bacteria but inside the steak is sterile. That is why is it safe to eat a rare steak. However, with this gluing method, several layers of steak may be glued together and they may carry bacteria into the inside of the meat.
This can potentially cause bacterial food borne illness if the steak is not cooked through. Filet mignon is typically not cooked through because it will shrink if cooked too long and who doesn’t enjoy a rare or medium rare steak. I know I like it medium rare.
Other issues that emerge include allergic reactions to the additives in the MTGase products as well as the issues of consumer fraud in a restaurant or catering setting.
What do you think about this? Leave a comment and let me know!