Friday, May 4, 2012

Are You Eating "Meat Glue"?

You've likely seen the headlines in the past month about the meat filler "pink slime". But the meat industry has another dirty little secret revealed in video after video on YouTube: leftover pieces of meat stuck together and then sliced into whole cuts.

What’s the sticky bond holding it all together? Something called meat glue. Mark Fuller is the chef and owner of Ma'ono Fried Chicken and Whisky in Seattle. “(It’s) something I found interesting. (It’s) something I like to play around with,” explains Fuller. 

Think you haven't eaten meat glue, or transglutaminase?  It's in intimation crab meat, sausage, even cheese and yogurt as a thickener. It's an enzyme made by cultivating bacteria.Fuller demonstrates how transglutaminase works by taking two pieces of skirt steak. He sprinkles the meat glue powder on the steak pieces and then marries them together. He then wraps the cut and refrigerates it overnight, allowing the powder to coagulate and then fuse the uneven pieces into perfectly-shaped steaks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture insists transglutaminase is safe, but OHSU endocrinologist Dr. Bart Duell cautions that fused meats need to be cooked to at least 165 degrees to kill any bacteria. That's the temperature of a well-done steak.

“A rare cut or medium hasn't been heated to that temperature in the middle, so there's a small risk that you could get some kind of food-borne infection,” says Duell. Duell insists ground beef poses an even bigger risk than glued meat. That’s because the ground meat has more total surface area where bacteria can grow.
Restaurants aren't required to tell you if you're eating glued meat, but product labels will have the words "transglutaminase," "formed" or "reformed." Back at Ma'ono, the glued loin is cooked and rested. A slice down the middle reveals the slightest of seams. It's the only clue that this single piece of steak is not straight from the cow.

Chef Fuller has stopped using transglutaminase in his restaurant, saying you shouldn't need glue to get customers to stick around. “It's a natural product, but it just doesn't feel natural to me,” says Fuller.

Some chefs are purposefully using meat glue to cook creative cuisine. Instead of gluing skirt steak to skirt steak, they're fusing it with chicken, seafood or other meats. And one New York City chef is using meat glue to create pasta made from shrimp. - Shellie Bailey-Shah 

The controversy surrounding the use of so-called "meat glue" is rumbling through the hallways of the California State Capitol. A state senator, known for tackling big business, is officially demanding protections for consumers.

The phones lit up in the L.A. area office of Ted Lieu after the scandal broke. Lieu has since written a letter to the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture calling for an investigation into the dangers of meat contamination, among the possibilities e-coli bacteria.

It turns out expensive pieces of meat, like filet mignon, are sometimes glued together with, what federal regulators call a completely safe and natural substance. "It's come to my attention that when you glue together lots of different parts of meat to form a whole steak, the middle section of that steak can be contaminated," Lieu said. "And, if you don't cook it well enough people can get sick."

The meat industry is under the control of the federal government. But Lieu wants full disclosure from the feds and the meat industry. He said people have the right to know if the steak they're buying has been glued together.

"It's basically taking lots of different pieces that have been in contact with outside bacteria, outside contaminants; and then your form it into one steak," Lieu said. "When you think of a whole steak, straight from a cow, the inside is sterile. But not when you glue it together."

Back in 2008, lieu took on the banking and finance industry during the mortgage crisis. He eventually passed legislation protecting borrowers and banning certain types of loans. - Sacramento News

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