There are many additives in meat products and processed food that we’re completely unaware of. When I learned about transglutaminase—affectionately known as “meat glue”—I was shocked.
During my 25 years as a meat eater I never considered that meat scraps could or would be “glued” together. I thought my prime rib or sirloin came was sliced right off the steer.
Transglutaminase is used widely in the meat industry to combine small pieces of pork and beef. In the meat and restaurant industries it makes no sense to discard chunks of meat when the bottom line is at stake. Transglutaminase works by facilitating an enzymatic reaction between proteins that causes them to bind together. It’s also used in “fake meat” products, like veggie burgers and imitation crabmeat.
The issue is what does transglutaminase do to the body on a long-term basis? The USDA classifies it as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) for use in the food industries, but no long-term, peer-reviewed testing has been done.
The thought of enzymes changing the protein or molecular structure in any food seems a little scary. Perhaps it could be like one cigarette per day doesn’t do damage, but over a lifetime, who knows?
Other issues are bacterial contamination among scraps of meat when glued together, in addition to increasing airborne bacteria. Transglutaminase may also increase intestinal permeability (“leaky gut syndrome”).
To date there is no direct evidence linking meat glue to any disease, and there is ongoing testing on it. Yet, that didn’t stop the European Union from banning it in 2010. Sadly, in the U.S., inferior scraps of meat, which otherwise would be tossed in the garbage, may find their way onto your dinner plate.