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Myths about Enzymes in Meat Products Challenged

14 May 2012

US - Meat manufacturers and experts have 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”.

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 said: “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, the AMI said.

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