Meat glue: when, why and how it’s dangerous

“Meat glue” is a natural enzyme found in plants and animals that causes blood to clot. Recently, scientists discovered how to mass-produce the enzyme using bacteria, and that splitting it between two pieces of meat will cause muscle fibers and proteins to fuse together, almost as if it were a single cut. Chefs have used meat glue for all sorts of creative purposes, forming proteins into all sorts of wacky shapes, like spaghetti made entirely of shrimp. The meat industry uses it to pass off leftovers as filet mignon.

The enzyme itself is not dangerous when used correctly and is labeled “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA. When used in reasonable amounts it breaks down and becomes inactive in the process of sticking meat, any cooking heat will do this and the human stomach can also break it down quickly without ill effect. In its active powder form, it can irritate the skin and cause damage to the nose, mouth or esophagus if inhaled or swallowed. But the same could be said for many household chemicals. If you’re worried about food producers accidentally contaminating your steak too much, well, there are plenty of things food producers could accidentally contaminate you with. I don’t imagine the enzyme to be particularly harmful in relation to the multitude of drug resistant diseases in the world, and most food companies take this very seriously, as they are personally liable if their product injures someone . I’ve also heard that you can tell if the enzyme is still working because it will smell like wet dog (yet another reason to always sniff your meat before cooking).

People with celiac disease or any gluten sensitivity may want to watch out for meat glue in the near future. The research appears to be preliminary, but it appears the enzyme has an interesting response to gluten. Under certain conditions, the enzyme can make gluten even more allergenic, which means that gluten-free products containing only traces of gluten could become problematic. Other research indicates that meat glue can be used to render gluten entirely No allergen. In the meantime, my recommendation is to source your meat carefully for now and keep an eye on the news for more information.

Finally, we come to the real problem with meat glue, which has nothing to do with the enzyme itself and everything to do with its deceptive nature and the fact that it brings the outside of the meat back to life. inside.

Most of us know that it’s relatively safe to eat a rare steak, but ground beef must be cooked thoroughly to avoid food poisoning. This is because bacteria and viruses do not often enter meats; they’re just sitting on the very outer surface. Ground beef and meat-stuck products have surfaces that could have been exposed to disease all the way to the center and should be cooked accordingly. But because meat glue products look and are sold like regular steaks, consumers may not know that eating them rare could put them at risk of all kinds of serious foodborne illnesses. Steaks that have been reassembled from parts must now be labeled as such, but it is up to the consumer to find that label, understand what it means, and cook it accordingly. An even greater potential hazard comes from restaurants, which are not required to pass this warning label on to you. Most responsible upscale restaurants understand the dangers of these products and will handle them safely if they decide to use them. But if you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask where the meat is from, and order it well if there’s any uncertainty.

Final word: the glue itself probably won’t hurt you, but if you like your bloody steaks, definitely make sure you get the genuine item.

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