Cow's blood enzyme used to glue food; raises health, faith issues

Posted Apr 27, 2011 by Carol Forsloff
The next time you eat chicken nuggets you might want to think again about what is used to mold the casing for it as it comes from cow’s blood which raises dietary questions as well as faith-based issues.
United States Department of Agriculture photo.
Vegetarians, vegans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Buddhists and Jews have taboos against the eating of meat, especially products made from animal blood. Not knowing what holds certain foods together has created consternation among health-conscious and religious groups, despite the fact that almost every country in Europe last year approved the use of meat glue or a substance called thrombian or transolutaminase. That is the meat blood enzyme that is used to hold together a variety of different foods.
The meat glue additive was approved formally in Europe last year, but one year later in 2011 the arguments against its use are growing, as more and more groups learn about it. It is fast becoming a hot topic in the blogs and commentaries on healthy eating. There is a movement in Sweden to abolish its use as a result.
The dietary laws of Judaism are called the kashrut. For those who follow strictly the dietary laws of the Torah, this usually means refraining from eating meat for many conservative Jews. The eating of blood products is especially forbidden, whether it is human or animal blood. The law is related to passages in both Leviticus, which states clearly the blood of animals must not be eaten, and the book of Genesis where the shedding of blood is related to the killing of man. Other religious groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses follow similar dietary guidelines in the prohibition against eating products made from animal blood, using similar scriptural bases for their beliefs.
While governments have issued the go-ahead for “meat glue” to be used in food, health care providers advise their professionals to be sensitive to cultural and religious differences in the treatment of individuals. This includes the provision of meals. Those guidelines maintain it is important to be sensitive to religious diversity and to learn the various prohibitions that violate the sacred laws of others. One example is the treatment of Buddhists, many of whom are strictly vegetarian and refuse to consume any meat or animal by-product, which includes even some medications.
The approval of the meat glue last year has outraged many Europeans, who are concerned about the insensitivity to health and faith concerns of numerous groups in a diverse culture. Health Impact News Daily’s observation is this in citing the outcome of research from the World Cancer Fund,
“There is strong evidence that … processed meats are causes of bowel cancer, and that there is no amount of processed meat that can be confidently shown not to increase risk …
Try to avoid processed meats such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages.”
In Switzerland critics against the use of meat glue have been especially vocal as have the citizens of Sweden. In the United States, the controversy and objections over meat glue is growing, especially as more and more consumers learn about it. In a "Mommy" forum these concerns are discussed in relationship to the negative impact on the health of young children.
Chef Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 restaurant in New York City uses meat glue for his famous Shrimp Pasta, that some consumers now question. Food critics point out that the safety of this additive is not assured and that how the enzyme is broken down remains a question, while some experts maintain there is no problem and others declare it raises food safety issues. Predominantly, however, the faith-based concerns have also been opened up because of the large numbers of religious groups who oppose the eating of meat, especially the eating of products made from animal blood..
A media source representing the "Healthy Chef" observes, however, Just sprinkle a teaspoon of powdered transglutaminase on various meat scraps, knead them together and roll them up in plastic wrap. Put in the fridge and 6 hours later, you have an easily-sliced piece of meat that looks like real fillet.The amount of bacteria on a steak that’s been put together with meat glue is hundreds of time higher.Meat glue is a darker product altogether.The bacterial count in patched-up meat is extremely high because scraps that were outside pieces but are now glued together inside are hard to cook thoroughly.
Critics of the use of “meat glue” maintain that many consumers are unaware of the ingredients used in their food. The lack of full disclosure has created consternation and concern that many people may violate their religious and dietary codes without knowing and that this become a violation of their basic rights.