Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is Meat Glue Safe?

tarale /CC BY-SA 2.0

I have blogged about the adding of "pink slime" and "meat glue" to our meat products before all in the name of the almighty dollar. It would seem that some have heard the cries of an outraged public and have promised to suspend the use of pink slime. Good news; but, what about meat glue?

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 (Federal Department of Agriculture - USA) 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.

“The amount of bacteria on a steak that has been put together with meat glue is hundreds of times higher,” said microbiologist Glenn Pener reported on Future in Vegan.

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.

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.

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