Saturday, 2 April 2011

Meat Glue!

Here's something you might not know. I certainly didn't. The meat industry uses "glue" to stick together scraps and make them look like Prime Cuts.
(see the website)

Did you know your meats can contain this meat glue? It’s not on labels because technically it not part of formulation of the product. It's called Thrombin coagulant.

It allows butchers to use the undetectable glue to piece together scraps of meat into a seamless full meat cut. England banned use of Thrombin coagulant last year. They found it misled consumers into thinking they were getting a prime cut for their money, and also the original glue was made from cow and pig blood, something they didn’t think was wise in restaurant meats.

When multiple pieces are globbed together, bacteria has a better chance of growth. “If there is a bacteria outbreak, it’s much harder to figure out the source when chunks of meat from multiple cows were combined,” said Keith Warriner who teaches food science at University of Guelph.

The EU recently brought back the use of the new glue, Thrombian, or Transglutaminase, right along with Australia, Canada and the US. The FDA, of course, deems it GRAS (generally recognized as safe).

It’s hush-hush because meat preparers are afraid to lose their suppliers and customers. The next time you buy natural and organic meat, it wouldn't hurt to ask whether the glue is in it.

This sort of thing has been a boon to the food industry, which can now treat all sorts of proteins like meat or fish as just another material to be processed, but in the hands of molecular gastronomists it’s become a way to manipulate food in a way that would have been previously impossible. It’s possible, for example, to make tenderloin rolls wrapped in bacon that hold together perfectly without the need for twine or toothpicks. So what kind of glue is it exactly?

Produced as Activa by Japan’s Ajinomoto Company, it’s scientific name is “transglutaminase” and it belongs to the family of clotting enzymes which are eight in number.

Thrombin is a coagulation protein which together with the fibrous protein fibrin can be used to develop a “meat glue” enzyme that can be used for sticking together different pieces of meat. It can be made from blood taken from either cows or pigs.

Less than a year ago, the European Parliament had voted to ban bovine and porcine thrombin. The House said the meat glue has no proven benefit for consumers and might mislead them instead.

The Parliament estimated that there is “a clear risk that meat containing thrombin would find its way into meat products served in restaurants or other public establishments serving food, given the higher prices that can be obtained for pieces of meat served as a single meat product”.

But two weeks ago, all but one of the European Union nations voted in favor of using Thrombian, or Transglutaminase (TG). They now join other developed nations such as the U.S., Canada, and Australia who approved the product.

If there is a bacteria outbreak, it’ll be much harder to figure out the source when chunks of meat from multiple cows were combined.

Yet another innovation is “modified atmosphere packaging”, the widespread practice of filling meat packaging with adjusted levels of oxygen and other gases. The gases can keep meat from losing its fresh-looking red hue. Shiv Chopra, an Ottawa food-safety expert and retired Health Canada scientist, said in an e-mail that the technique is “dangerous” because it may prevent shoppers from seeing when meat has gone bad. UBC’s Allen agreed: “This can be misleading to consumers.”

Invariably, industry justifies use of these so called meat glues because they are used only during processing and resist declaring it in the label obviously maintaining that it is not a part of the formulation of the product. While technically they are correct, the fact still remains that the so called processing aid stays right there in the final product.which certainly requires declaration for the information of the consumer.

Maybe it's time to have a chat with your butcher or shop more from farmer’s markets.

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