Sudbury·Food Feature

Transglutaminase or 'meat glue' can be troubling for some

A Sudbury dietitian says a naturally occurring product in human and animal bodies, used to glue meat products together, needs to be considered when cooking some processed foods.

A Sudbury dietitian says a naturally occurring product in human and animal bodies, used to glue meat products together, needs to be considered when cooking some processed foods.

Transglutaminase is found in humans and animals and is an enzyme that is involved in blood clotting, Tammy Cheguis said. Food producers get it from a special bacteria and it is sometimes used in processed products as "meat glue."

"This little enzyme has the ability to kind of bond or bridge things together," she said.

"Sometimes in the … food industry, if you're left with a lot of little bits of meat … and you can't really make a steak or a chop from those little cuts, you can actually take all those little pieces and put them together."

Cheguis said the transglutaminase binds the product together so well, it's not noticeable.

It's not used in fresh cuts of meat, but more often in processed, packaged cuts, such as chicken nuggets or fish cakes.

In Canada, if meat is 'glued' together, transglutaminase needs to be listed on the label.

It can also be found in certain unstandardized dairy products, Cheguis said, as it typically makes the products creamier.

Cheguis noted the product is banned in the European Union over safety concerns.

"When you think about a cut of meat … you know that you can cook a steak to medium and you should be fine because you've killed most of the surface bacteria," she said.
 
"But if you then take chunks of meat which have their own surface area, and you now glue them together with something, you now cannot do that same thing. You can't just cook it to medium."

She said meat products that have been put together using meat glue, need to be cooked to a certain internal cooking temperature for food safety concerns.

Corrections

  • A previous verston of this story stated that meat glue sourced from cow or pig blood was used in the Canadian food supply. Under the food rules in Canada meat glue is only allowed to be sourced from a very specific bacteria and can only be used in specific food products.
    Dec 02, 2014 9:42 AM ET

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