Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Meat Glue??

A Pennsylvania Television Station, WTAE out of Pittsburgh, recently did a fascinating story on the use of "meat glue" to bind meat trimmings into pieces that look exactly like a good filet and can be served as such at restaurants.

As the news story reveals, this practice raises deceptive advertising issues -  is that Filet Mignon really stew meat?  And from a food safety standpoint, consider that many people order their filet cooked "rare."  Not a good idea, particularly if the internal components of the meat have been exposed and potentially contaminated.  The contamination risk is more akin to hamburger.

The technical name for "meat glue" is TG enzyme, and the FDA informs us that it "is derived from a non-toxigenic and non-pathogenic strain of Streptoverticillium mobaraense and functions by catalyzing the formation of a covalent bond between the glutamine and lysine side residues of proteins." One of the rules that authorized the use and accepted the industry's characterization of the product as "generally recognized as safe" is found at 66 Fed. Reg. 54,912 (Oct. 31, 2001).

There are no allegations that TG enzyme is unsafe in and of itself.  To prevent misbranding, products that are labeled, such as packaged cuts sold in grocery stores or on canned products must use special language to distinguish the bound together product, with the terms "formed'" and "reformed" designated as the appropriate descriptive terms. Restaurants, however, do not have specific labeling requirements. The news story suggests asking about the use of meat glue the next time you order a steak.

The issue of "meat glue" has been all over the internet in the last few days -   the ABC news video that shows how it's used  is embedded below. Thanks to Washington attorney and LL.M. candidate Vade Donaldson for bringing this issue to my attention. Note, though that Food Safety News was first on the scene to raise this issue -  in 2010 - when they reported on the European Parliament's vote against it, EU Bans Meat Glue.



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