Meat glue: You've probably had it, and it could be dangerous

Sunday - 4/24/2011, 12:04pm EDT

Elizabeth Compson
Special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - There's a meat industry secret they probably don't want you to know. It's called transglutaminase, more commonly known as "meat glue."

It's made from a blood-clotting enzyme from beef and pork plasma that helps turn leftover scraps of meat into whole filets that can be sold at market price.

Joseph Gonzales, dietitian for the Cancer Project, says there's a 50 percent chance you're eating it every day, and it could be dangerous.

"All the bacteria is still on the outside of the meat and as you gather them together, they start to fold inward. Now you can't cook off that bad bacteria because it's stuck inside," Gonzales says.

The FDA categorizes transglutaminase as Generally Recognized as Safe (pdf), but the study was funded by Ajinomoto, the same company that produces it and other products like MSG.

Meat distributors are required to label all reformed meats, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, but it could still be hard to spot.

Pam the Butcher, as she's know at Wagshal's in the District, says they've never used "meat glue," because they order directly from a kosher facility.

Look out for products containing TG enzyme or that say "formed" beef or steak.

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