Manufacturers and experts set the record straight on the uses of transglutaminase (TG) and beef fibrin, which have been inappropriately referred to in the media as “meat glue.” The American Meat Institute hosted a conference call clarifying many of the false reports of the alleged dangers of meat glue that had been circulated by some media outlets and bloggers.
TG and beef fibrin are enzymes that are used in meat and other foods as binders. Examples of other common binders include egg yolks, corn starch or plant fibers. Products in which these enzymes are used represent a tiny fraction of the meat supply. When used in a meat processing plant, they are typically used to make products that will be served in a foodservice setting. For example, one of the most common applications is to help bind two large beef tenderloins together. Tenderloins have a thick end and a pointed end. When laid on top of one another in opposite directions, these ingredients can help the two pieces bond together so that when they are sliced, the filets are uniform in size.
“Allegations raised in the media that these enzymes could help form what appear to be premium cuts of meat out of smaller inexpensive cuts are unfounded,” said AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp. “Not only is this impractical from a time and cost perspective and irresponsible for anyone to do, IT IS ILLEGAL. A chef attempting to pass off inexpensive cuts like chuck as a premium cut like filet mignon would be breaking consumer protection laws. We have no evidence this is occurring.”
Products that use TG and beef fibrin have an excellent food safety record. Dana Hansen, PhD, Associate Professor at North Carolina State University explained, “USDA recommends that meat with TG be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three minute rest period. Within a restaurant setting this temperature is typical even of rare steaks.”
Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have examined these products and determined them to be safe and suitable for use in a variety of food products including meat. Other countries around the world also recognize both as safe. All packaged meat products that contain these enzymes must declare them on the ingredient statement and the product must be labeled as “formed” or “reformed.” Those with beef fibrin must have it in the product name or as a product name qualifier depending on how much is used. These labeling declarations are required. There are no secrets.
AMI has several resources about these enzymes including a new Facts, Figures and Falsehoods sheet that breaks down the key information. Among the myths that the association dispelled are:
TG and beef fibrin are essentially “meat glue.” This is an incorrect and misleading term. They are two enzymes of dozens that may be used. They bind products together in the same way that an egg binds other foods together.
Chefs use TG or beef fibrin to form what appear to be premium cuts of meat out of smaller inexpensive cuts. This is not only impractical from a time and cost perspective, IT IS ILLEGAL under state and local consumer protection laws.
Fibrin is derived from pig blood. In the U.S., fibrin is derived from beef, not pork. Fibrin is derived from pigs in Europe. If pig derived fibrin were used in a U.S. beef product, it would need to be labeled as pork.
TG is illegal in Europe. TG is used legally in Europe.
These enzymes are secret and hidden from the consumer. TG and beef fibrin are considered ingredients and therefore must be labeled.
TG is used in chicken nuggets. This is neither necessary nor a practical use according to manufacturers. We are unaware of any chicken nugget manufacturer using TG.