Move Over 'Pink Slime': Industry Defends 'Meat Glue'

Enzymes used in meat production are safe, industry says

Defenders of additive-free food are at it again, now that the wave of activism over "pink slime" has settled. The newest target? "Meat glue," used in meat production to bind cuts of meat together to produce a normal-shaped cut of meat. 

Retuers reports that meat producers are defending its use of the enzymes transglutaminase and beef fibrin. They're used to bind meats together — say, two triangular beef tenderloins combined to make one filet. 

The enzymes are used not only in meat, but also in crab imitation products, pastas, and dairy products. The USDA rules that the enzymes must be labeled on packages. The problem, food advocates say, is that meat glue is used more commonly in the food service industry — where consumers can't accurately check what's in their food. So if you're at a "white tablecloth" restaurant, be forewarned that your pork tenderloin might not be what it seems. 

Plus, it can be unsafe for consumers; some advocates say consumers who eat products with the enzymes are at a higher risk for foodborne illnesses. If a piece of meat is cooked rare, they say, one singular piece should be able to be safe for consumers because the rare middle hasn't been exposed to air or bacteria. Theoretically, two glued pieces of meat may be exposed, raising the possiblity of food poisoning. Plus, there's no industry standard temperature that reconstructed meat products with meat glue have to be cooked to.

The American Meat Institute has led conference calls with meat industry experts and media outlets to answer questions and to avoid issues of transparency. Said one AMI expert on the conference call, "This is not a secret much as people would like to characterize it in that way... And the willingness of these companies to get on this call shows that."

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