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State senator calls for investigation into 'meat glue'

U.S. Department of AgricultureBurger KingBoneless Lean Beef Trimmings

Just when you thought the “pink slime” controversy was in the past and that the discovery of mad-cow disease had blown over, the forces that be now bring yet another cause for carnivore concern: calls for an investigation into ‘meat glue.’

Officially, it’s known as transglutaminase, an enzyme in powder form that brings protein closer together – permanently.

Occasionally, the so-called reformed meat is served up by food suppliers, restaurants and others who use it to patch various pieces of meat into a single steak or some other amalgamated chunk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration deems it to be safe – “generally.”

But state Sen. Ted W. Lieu of Torrance wants to know what’s in his filet mignon. In a letter to the USDA, Lieu is calling for an investigation into "meat glue," which he said may be dangerous for some consumers.

He said that better labeling is necessary for meats that have been bound together with the product because outer meat portions that are more easily contaminated may end up in the middle of a larger piece.

The glue, he said, may cause allergic reactions and could also make tracing potential food-borne illnesses more difficult when different parts of different animals are combined.

In the meantime, authorities have drawn up an attack plan for another meat-based concern:E. coli.

The USDA said Wednesday that once initial tests of a sample of ground beef show evidence of the bacteria, it will begin trying to trace the source of the meat.

Currently, because of a requirement that sometimes extends the tracing process by days, the agency must wait until the presence of E. coli is confirmed.

The new policy could significantly speed up investigations into food-borne illnesses, the USDA said.

The new tracking program, which will affect the 13,000 beef samples tested annually, is expected to go into effect during the heat of barbecue season in July.

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