Via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Ever gone out to an inexpensive buffet and marveled at the vast display of freshly prepared, hot food just waiting to be devoured? You choose the perfectly fried tempura shrimp—that unbeknownst to you—may have been mixed with a binding enzyme called transglutaminase—otherwise known as meat glue. This is not an unlikely scenario as meat glue—though banned in the European Union—is classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as “generally recognized as safe.”
In the book, “A Consumer’s Guide to Toxic Food Additives” authors Bill and Linda Bonvie reveal the many additives lurking in our everyday food and outline ways we can identify and eliminate them from our diets. Following on the heels of our excerpt about the health implications of carrageenan, this one is sure to “stick” in your mind.
Meat Glue—Pink Slime’s Far More Sickening Sibling
Back in 2012, an ABC news lead story about Pink Slime (called in the industry by the more appetizing name, “finely textured beef”) struck a chord of disgust in the meat-eating public.
Petitions were formed to get the product out of the school lunch program, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver conducted pink slime demos where he put beef scraps in a washing machine and then soaked them in ammonia and water.
Right before the slime hit the fan, however, ABC news affiliates spilled the beans about another underground meat practice. It was the use of an enzyme called transglutaminase, or, as it’s more commonly referred to, meat glue.
Now, even though meat glue has the potential to be a lot more hazardous to your health than pink slime, for some reason, the public couldn’t quite seem to wrap its head around it in the same way.
While some stories appeared in the press at the time, there were no petitions or consumers calling on the FDA or USDA to do something about it. In fact, some big-name chefs even came out in praise of meat glue.
For example, Wylie Dufresne, who was both chef and owner of the super-pricy Manhattan eatery wd~50 (which closed in 2014), was quoted in Meat Paper as saying he had “concocted all manner of playful and bizarre food products with meat glue, including shrimp spaghetti, which he made by mixing salt, cayenne, deveined shrimp, and meat glue in a blender.”
“Meat glue,” Dufresne declared, “makes us better chefs.”
However, even if you’re dining at an elegant establishment like wd~50, you may want to think twice about eating “glued” food. That’s one of the problems with this stuff—the appearance of food in which it has been used can definitely be deceiving.
How to Fake a Steak (or Eggs)
Since 2016, a certain restaurant chain has been using the catchy slogan “You can’t fake steak” in its TV commercials. While we can’t say whether or not that particular chain’s steaks are the real McCoy, the fact is that the slogan is wrong: You can indeed fake steak—by simply using a little meat glue.
At one time, transglutaminase was manufactured entirely from the clotting agent extracted from pig or cow’s blood. Now, it’s typically made by cultivating bacteria to do the job. Most of the meat glue supplied to the food industry comes from none other than Ajinomoto—the company that brought MSG to America.
Like MSG, Ajinomoto claims that transglutaminase is “ubiquitous in nature … typically found in various plants and animals.” Where MSG is concerned, that premise really doesn’t hold much water, as “bound” glutamic acid found in things such as meat, mushrooms, or tomatoes is quite different than the free glutamic acid added to food. Now, new research has found that this might also apply to transglutaminase sprinkled on meat or seafood.
What meat glue does is to allow restaurants and manufacturers to get away with one of the most devious forms of food fakery. Even the meat industry, when it defends transglutaminase, has to acknowledge that it can be used to fool diners. Meat glue is used much more often to “fake a steak” than to make gourmet shrimp noodles, as chef Dufresne did. By sprinkling the enzyme on various scrap pieces of meat, chicken, or seafood, and then binding it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerating it for several hours, you can turn out a picture-perfect filet mignon, solid piece of chicken, or a top-dollar-looking filet of fish.
Even experts can’t tell the difference.
If you’ve ever attended a banquet or a convention, or maybe even dined in a restaurant, and were served an expensive-looking steak or sushi at a bargain price, you may have wondered how that came to be. The answer is either that the restaurant owner is losing money with each meal or, more likely, that there’s a bag of meat glue in the kitchen.
The fake food industry has also found use for meat glue in a product bizarrely called “JUST Egg,” something that contains no trace of eggs. But along with brain-damaging amino acids, you will find transglutaminase listed on the JUST Egg label—yet another excellent reason to read food ingredients carefully no matter what brand names the products are given.
A Pathway for Pathogens to Get Inside Your Dinner
Fakery aside, meat glue could be contributing to the growing epidemic of food poisoning that hits millions (the CDC puts the number at 1 in 6 Americans or around 48 million every year).
That’s because pathogens, like Escherichia coli, Listeria, and Salmonella (with many strains now antibiotic resistant) mostly appear on the surface of meat. When the outer surface is seared, even if the meat is eaten medium rare or rare, that bacteria have most likely been killed.
When multiple pieces of meat are combined, however, those pathogens could be lurking in the center. Surfaces of the meat that once were on the outside are now in the middle. If you haven’t cooked that meat thoroughly inside and out, you could be in for big trouble.
On an Australian TV exposé of meat glue several years ago, an expert in microbiology commented that “the amount of bacteria on a steak that’s been put together with meat glue is hundreds of times higher” than your average piece of unglued meat. The same is true for chicken and fish.
Now, if you ask the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration], USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture], and certainly Ajinomoto, you’re going to hear that meat glue is perfectly safe. Sure, there’s that little problem of bacterial contamination, but these US consumer protection agencies appear to be quite confident that restaurants know that glued meat needs to be cooked thoroughly.
The USDA calls it TG enzyme, and gives instructions for cooking stuck-together meat that sounds exactly the same as what it would tell you about cooking all types of raw meat. As far as the FDA is concerned, there’s really no problem with Ajinomoto making its own determination that transglutaminase is generally recognized as safe, or GRAS.
Back in the late 1990s, the USDA received several petitions from both Ajinomoto and another company called AMPC about expanding the use of TG enzyme and attempting to get the consumer labeling (in the supermarket) to be as innocuous as possible.
Both companies got just about everything they wanted. Meat glue can now be used in meat products across the board—both the kind the USDA calls “standardized” and “non-standardized.” (This refers to what’s called a “standard of identity”—a legal description of what it takes for certain foods to be able to use a name such as hot dogs, milk, cheese, bread, etc. For example, if you want to sell something called “Salisbury steak,” it must contain at least 65 percent meat, among other requirements.)
In the case of meat glue, the agency had to change the standard of identity for numerous items like breakfast sausages, frankfurters, and bologna in order to allow for the use of the enzyme. Additionally, it was also approved to be used as a “binder” (something added to food to thicken or improve texture) for “certain meat and poultry products.”
As a result, it’s quite possible that manufacturers are putting it to uses way beyond faking expensive cuts of meat.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons you need to go out of your way to avoid this badditive has to do with a more recent discovery—one that might help explain the explosion of gut and digestive troubles that are plaguing so many these days.
Read more here...