Meat Glue – Food Industry’s Latest Technique to Fake Meat

Apr 07, 2016 05:04 AM EDT | By Chandan Das

A butcher slices thin pork steaks in the Mercado Agropecuario in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana January 20, 2015 in Havana, Cuba.
A butcher slices thin pork steaks in the Mercado Agropecuario in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana January 20, 2015 in Havana, Cuba.
(Photo : Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Very few people realize that they are actually being cheated when they order a premium steak. For instance, despite paying a top dollar for a cut from a tenderloin or rib eye, in reality, you could be eating smaller off-cuts that have been stuck together using a substance that is allowed in many countries across the globe.

According to chefs and food suppliers this practice known as meat gluing is rampant, The New Paper claimed. In fact, chefs and meat suppliers told the publication that this corrupt practice is more widespread than one may imagine. Meat glue is used to bind poorer beef quality or cheaper cuts with a view to giving them an appearance of a more premium cut of beef or premium beef, one celebrity chef in Singapore disclosed.

Meat glue is something like a secret in the food industry since not many people are still aware of it, Teo, who runs food and beverage consultancy ET Culinary Arts, said, adding, reputed restaurants, however, avoid this practice and only some restaurants employ meat gluing primarily to cut costs. The cost savings usually come from utilizing the unwanted meat trimmings, Teo added.

Outside Singapore, the use of meat glue somewhat like a fashion that received lots of media attention when it was exposed in the Australian meat industry in 2011. In some parts of the world, this practice is also known as "franken-meat."

The glue, known as transglutaminase, is not harmful for consumption. It is basically an enzyme used by chefs to bind together various cuts of meat and is used in producing fish balls and sausages Soshiok reported. However, while transglutaminase is safe for human consumption, William Chen, Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Food Science and Technology Program director said that it involves potential food safety hazards, especially during the preparation process.

According to Prof Chen, there binding small meat cuts with the glue involve more handling steps and this may possibly give rise to bacterial growth, which occurs not only in the 'joint' areas but also in other parts of the glued meat. Food poisoning risks are more in the case of combined beef, as beef is usually not fully cooked.

Unless such meat products are not cooked at higher temperatures to diminish the potential health hazard it may promote common bacterial growth, which may result in ailments like clostridium, salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and E. coli.

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