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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    What is Meat Glue, and Why is it Unsafe for People with Celiac Disease?

      Meat Glue is an often unlabeled ingredient in meat, poultry and fish products that could trigger celiac disease reactions.

    Caption: Image: CC--U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Celiac.com 02/19/2019 - Microbial transglutaminase, aka ‘meat glue,’ is an enzyme commonly used in the meat industry to “glue” together smaller pieces of meat, fish, or meat to make a single larger piece. The result is a large chunk of virtually intact piece of meat or fish that looks like a single chunk. Transglutaminase is usually unlabeled and largely invisible to consumers. For people with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, meat glue could be dangerous.

    Meat Glue Can Trigger Celiac Reactions

    Because it is functionally similar to the tissue transglutaminase (tTg), microbial transglutaminase acts like glue, binding gliadin peptides together to form neo-complexes that trigger an immune response, and may also trigger an adverse response in people with celiac disease. 

    A recent study by a team of German and Israeli researchers found that “Even when it lacks sequence identity, microbial transglutaminase functionally mimics endogenous tissue transglutaminase,” which researchers know to be an autoantigen of celiac disease, as well as a key player in the development and progression of celiac disease. 

    Confirmation of the team’s findings could lead to changes in product labeling, processed food additive policies and consumer health education.

    If it’s true that “microbial transglutaminase functionally mimics endogenous tissue transglutaminase,” even in small pieces, and could trigger celiac disease, or celiac symptoms, then people with celiac disease need to know about it, and avoid it in foods.

    Talk with Your Butcher to Avoid Meat Glue

    Until labeling is required, and standards are set, talking with your local butcher is likely the best strategy for avoiding meat glue. Your butcher will be able to guide you to meat, poultry, fish and other products that have not been processed with meat glue.

    Read more at:
    Frontiers in Pediatrics

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    This product is used in more than just meat and fish per the article you cited.  Very worrisome indeed.  

    “Due to its broad enzymatic activity, it is heavily used by the food processing industries (89121823). In fact, the enzyme is consumed by most of the processed food industries, spanning the meat, dairy, sea food and fish, surimi, casein and gelatin, myosin and actin, confection, and convenience ones and many more (89121822). The net % increase per year of enzyme usage in the processed food industries is estimated to 21.9%, mTg being a major one (8). In the food processed industries, mTg improves gelation and changes emulsification, foaming, viscosity and water-holding capacity. It is considered as the “glue of proteins” and polymerization agent, thus improving food palatability, texture and life time on the supermarkets' shelves”.

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    Yep this is how my Dr. determined I reacted all of the three times I ate a scallop. Each time I became ill. She ruled out seafood allergy and scallop allergy. Each time I was at a restaurant over the course of 20 years each of the 3 total times I had a scallop I got ill. She explained that they were likely binded pieces of scallop using gluten. 

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    Okay, I'm actually "freaked" out after reading the article & responses.  I rarely eat gluten-free lunch meats because I have bowel issues after eating them.  Now I know why.  I'm going to contact manufactures & attempt to get the story regarding the use of meat glue in their products.  Thanks for the informative article.

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    17 hours ago, Nscott said:

    Boars Head states that their cold cuts are “gluten free”.  Does anybody know if they use “meat glue”?

    thank you 

    I think you would need to contact the manufacturer directly.  Let us know their response, please!  


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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

  • Related Articles

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/06/2016 - Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common types of functional bowel disorder. As researchers attempt to unravel the mysteries behind IBS, they have payed increasing attention to the possible impact of food and diet.
    For many people with IBS, certain foods seem to trigger or worsen symptoms, such as abdominal pain and bloating. Wheat is suspected as a major IBS trigger, although which exact aspects of wheat might be involved is not yet known. Gluten, and other wheat proteins, such as amylase-trypsin inhibitors, and fructans, which belong to fermentable oligo-di-mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAPs), have been identified as possible factors for triggering or worsening IBS symptoms.
    A research team recently set out to examine the issue, especially with respect to gluten and FODMAP sensitivity. The research team included Roberto De Giorgio, Umberto Volta, and Peter R Gibson. They are variously affiliated with the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, Centro di Ricerca Bio-Medica Applicata (C.R.B.A.) and Digestive System, St. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital at the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy, and the Department of Gastroenterology Alfred Hospital at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
    The researchers suspect that sensitivity occurs through different mechanisms, including immune and mast cell activation, mechanoreceptor stimulation and chemosensory activation. The lack of certainty regarding the actual triggers has opened a scenario of semantic definitions favored by the discordant results of double-blind placebo-controlled trials, which have generated various terms ranging from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity to the broader one of non-coeliac wheat or wheat protein sensitivity or, even, FODMAP sensitivity.
    The role of FODMAPs in eliciting the clinical picture of IBS goes further since these short-chain carbohydrates are found in many other dietary components, including vegetables and fruits.
    In their review, they assessed current literature in order to unravel whether gluten/wheat/FODMAP sensitivity represent 'facts' and not 'fiction' in IBS symptoms.
    This knowledge is expected to promote standardization in dietary strategies, especially gluten/wheat-free and low FODMAP diets, as suitable ways to manage IBS symptoms.
    Read more at: Gut. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2015-309757

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 05/23/2018 - Yes, we at Celiac.com realize that rye bread is not gluten-free, and is not suitable for consumption by people with celiac disease!  That is also true of rye bread that is low in FODMAPs.
    FODMAPs are Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. FODMAPS are molecules found in food, and can be poorly absorbed by some people. Poor FODMAP absorption can cause celiac-like symptoms in some people. FODMAPs have recently emerged as possible culprits in both celiac disease and in irritable bowel syndrome.
    In an effort to determine what, if any, irritable bowel symptoms may triggered by FODMAPs, a team of researchers recently set out to compare the effects of regular vs low-FODMAP rye bread on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and to study gastrointestinal conditions with SmartPill.
    A team of researchers compared low-FODMAP rye bread with regular rye bread in patients irritable bowel syndrome, to see if rye bread low FODMAPs would reduce hydrogen excretion, lower intraluminal pressure, raise colonic pH, improve transit times, and reduce IBS symptoms compared to regular rye bread. The research team included Laura Pirkola, Reijo Laatikainen, Jussi Loponen, Sanna-Maria Hongisto, Markku Hillilä, Anu Nuora, Baoru Yang, Kaisa M Linderborg, and Riitta Freese.
    They are variously affiliated with the Clinic of Gastroenterology; the Division of Nutrition, Department of Food and Environmental Sciences; the Medical Faculty, Pharmacology, Medical Nutrition Physiology, University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland; the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University, Hospital Jorvi in Espoo, Finland; with the Food Chemistry and Food Development, Department of Biochemistry, University of Turku inTurku, Finland; and with the Fazer Group/ Fazer Bakeries Ltd in Vantaa, Finland.
    The team wanted to see if rye bread low in FODMAPs would cause reduced hydrogen excretion, lower intraluminal pressure, higher colonic pH, improved transit times, and fewer IBS symptoms than regular rye bread. 
    To do so, they conducted a randomized, double-blind, controlled cross-over meal study. For that study, seven female IBS patients ate study breads at three consecutive meals during one day. The diet was similar for both study periods except for the FODMAP content of the bread consumed during the study day.
    The team used SmartPill, an indigestible motility capsule, to measure intraluminal pH, transit time, and pressure. Their data showed that low-FODMAP rye bread reduced colonic fermentation compared with regular rye bread. They found no differences in pH, pressure, or transit times between the breads. They also found no difference between the two in terms of conditions in the gastrointestinal tract.
    They did note that the gastric residence of SmartPill was slower than expected. SmartPill left the stomach in less than 5 h only once in 14 measurements, and therefore did not follow on par with the rye bread bolus.
    There's been a great deal of interest in FODMAPs and their potential connection to celiac disease and gluten-intolerance. Stay tuned for more information on the role of FODMAPs in celiac disease and/or irritable bowel syndrome.
    World J Gastroenterol. 2018 Mar 21; 24(11): 1259–1268.doi:  10.3748/wjg.v24.i11.1259

    Connie Sarros
    Celiac.com 11/09/2018 - Adjusting to the obvious guidelines of a gluten-free diet is challenging and often overwhelming.  You soon learn that what is gluten-free today may not be gluten-free tomorrow—mainly because companies can change their recipes, suppliers, or production methods.  As if that weren’t bad enough, you begin to realize that gluten is ‘hidden’ in foods.  How is one to keep up to date with all of this?
    Don’t despair, as there are many avenues of help available to you.  Thanks in large part to Andrea Lavario and her Task Force, congress will soon be requiring companies to list ingredients that heretofore have been disguised under auspicious names such as  ‘vegetable protein’ and ‘food starch’ (see Autumn 2004 Journal of Gluten Sensitivity, pg. 1).  There are also a few reliable food lists on the internet that are compiled by people who call companies regularly to check out dubious ingredients.  Some of the posted lists are out of date and unreliable, so check the validity of the sight before relying on the information given.
    So what are the hidden sources of gluten?
    Let’s examine our homes first.  Do you toast your gluten-free bread in the same toaster that is used for wheat-based bread?  Yes, those tiny wheat crumbs that remain in the toaster could contaminate your gluten-free bread.  Invest in a dedicated toaster for gluten-free products.  If you toast wheat-based hamburger buns and hot dog buns on the same grill as gluten-free ones, this could be another breeding ground for cross-contamination.  Grill the gluten-free foods first, and afterwards clean the grates thoroughly (Put the grates in your oven before running the self-cleaning cycle).  If you are baking both gluten-free and wheat-based cookies during the holidays, make the gluten-free ones first.  If you bake with wheat flour first, there could be some residual flour dust in the air and on your counters (Wheat flour can remain in the air for up to 24 hours!).  Wood cutting boards are porous and gluten may become embedded in them—use a marble cutting board instead.  Finally, beware of knives.  At breakfast, do the gluten-consuming members of your family spread peanut butter on their toast, and then double-dip to get a little more peanut butter out of the jar?  If so, get a peanut butter jar just for you.  When they double-dip, some of their wheat crumbs may be getting into the jar and will eventually contaminate the dollop you retrieve from the jar.
    Non-food items also pose gluten challenges.  Do you use latex or rubber gloves to wash dishes?  These may be dusted with wheat or oat flour.  Make a phone call to your doctor, dentist, orthodontist and periodontist and request that they use non-powdered gloves.  Gluten hides in art supplies, such as paints, clay, play dough, and glue.  It is also present in many personal items such as lipstick, lip balm, sunscreen, shampoos, soaps, cosmetics, and skin lotions.  Household products such as cleaning solutions, detergents, even bar soap may contain gluten.  Fortunately, you can refer to lists on the internet for ‘safe’ alternative brands that are available.
    Medications frequently contain gluten.  Pills may be dusted with flour during manufacturing and capsules may have gluten present in the oil inside.  Frequently your pharmacist will be able to tell you if any given medication is safe for you, but you may have to call the manufacturer.  Again, there are websites that have gluten-free medications listed.
    Oats remain a food of debate.  While ‘pure’ oats may be safe for some celiacs, it is very difficult to find ‘pure’ oats that are grown and processed in the U.S.A.  Some celiacs are able to consume oats imported from Ireland, while others have reactions to them.  Even the safe flours (rice, potato, tapioca, bean) can be contaminated if they are milled or processed in a facility that processes wheat, rye or barley grains.  A call to the processing company will tell you if they have machinery and facilities dedicated to gluten-free grains only.  If you purchase imported flours from an oriental store, you obviously are not able to contact the manufacturer.  Many of the Asian plants are dedicated exclusively to processing rice products, especially those in Thailand, but some are not.  It is your personal decision whether or not to trust the purity of items purchased from abroad.
    Reading labels is a highly refined art form.  Not-so-obvious terms on labels signal gluten, like malt, graham, spelt, kamut.  If you pick up a jar of chili powder it may or may not contain wheat flour which can be added to keep it from clumping—but even if it does you likely won’t find wheat listed on the label.  There are foods that you think are 100% pure, but when you examine the label, other ingredients have been added, like tomato paste.  Rice syrup may use barley enzymes.  Yeast may be grown or dried using wheat or barely ingredients.  
    At the grocery store beware of anything that is processed.  If it is not a whole food, it may contain gluten.  Common culprits include rice or corn cereals, soups, snack foods, lunch meats, sausages, and hot dogs.  Shortening may contain vitamin E processed from wheat germ. 
    Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more confusing, you find hieroglyphics on labels.  Letters like HVP (hydrogenated vegetable protein), HPP (hydrolyzed plant protein), and TVP (textured vegetable protein). Other confusing ingredients are maltodextrin, stabilizers, binders, fillers, natural flavor, vegetable gums, and mono & diglycerides, to name just a few.  Enriched products should be avoided unless you are certain of the sources of ‘enrichment’.  See the Safe & Forbidden Lists for detailed lists of ingredients and their gluten-free status.
    Finally, re-check labels each time you buy a product.  Companies change their recipes periodically.  Duncan Hines Vanilla Ready-to-Spread Frosting used to be gluten-free, as were Pringles Potato Chips—but both manufacturers recently began adding wheat starch to these products.  It should be noted that Duncan Hines received so many letters and calls of protest about wheat being added to their frosting that they have switched back to the original gluten-free recipe—but check the label before purchasing.  Product ingredients may change from one batch to another.  Cool Whip usually does not contain wheat, but occasionally it is added.  Archway macaroons are sometimes made with potato starch and sometimes with wheat starch.
    The lists above are not intended to overwhelm you, but to make you more aware of the problem that you face, and to help you become more alert.  With practice and time, screening for gluten becomes second nature.  Now for the good news!  By 2006, food labeling will disclose many of the hidden ingredients now on labels, including wheat (barley and rye do not have to be disclosed, but are used far less frequently than wheat).  Kraft Foods is already beginning to post labels reading “Gluten Free” on many of their products; other companies will follow their lead.  Many grocery store chains are responding by setting up entire gluten-free sections.  Gluten-free companies and bakeries are springing up every day.  Food chains are recognizing the needs of celiacs and are catering to this new market—Godfather’s Pizza now offers a gluten-free pizza crust (beware!) and many restaurants like Outback Steakhouse now offer gluten-free menus upon request.  As each month passes, it is becoming easier and easier to identify gluten-free products—and the number of products made for celiacs will continue to grow as time goes on.
    Connie Sarros’ Tortilla Tower
    This recipe is from my book:  Wheat-free Gluten-free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults.  It takes just 15 minutes to assemble and uses no special utensils or equipment.
    ½ pound lean ground beef (some discount super stores add  ¼ teaspoon pepper ½ teaspoon oregano 1 jar (15 ounce) GF spaghetti sauce 1 egg 1 cup GF small-curd cottage cheese 4 GF corn tortillas 1 cup GF shredded sharp cheddar cheese Directions:
    Preheat oven to 350F.  In a skillet over high heat, brown ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces with a fork as it browns.  Drain off any fat.  Stir in pepper, oregano and spaghetti sauce.  Cover pan and simmer over medium/low heat for 5 minutes.
    In a small bowl, whisk the egg slightly, then stir in the cottage cheese.
    Spoon ¼ cup of the meat mixture in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.  Place 1 tortilla on top of the sauce in the plate.  Spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture on top of the tortilla.  Top with ¼ of the meat sauce, then ¼ of the shredded cheese.  Repeat these layers 2 more times.  Top with the last tortilla, remaining meat sauce, and remaining shredded cheese.
    Bake for 30 minutes.  After removing from oven, let Tortilla Tower rest for 5 minutes before cutting.  Cut into 4 wedges to serve.  

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 01/10/2019 - Microbial transglutaminase is an enzyme that is commonly used by food manufacturers to improve product quality and increase shelf life. Transglutaminase is commonly used in the meat industry to add value to meat by allowing smaller pieces of meat, fish, or meat product to be glued together. The result is a large chunk of virtually intact piece of meat or fish that looks like a single chunk. Transglutaminase is rarely labeled and usually invisible to consumers. 
    According to the food website, Delishably, “"Meat glue" is industry standard, and chances are if you eat meat, or even tofu, you're consuming this binding agent on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.”
    Because it is functionally similar to the tTg, microbial transglutaminase acts like glue, binding gliadin peptides together to form neo-complexes that trigger an immune response, and may also trigger a pathogenic response in people with celiac disease. 
    Even when it lacks sequence identity, microbial transglutaminase functionally mimics endogenous tissue transglutaminase, which researchers understand to be an autoantigen of celiac disease and a key actor in genesis and progression of celiac disease. 
    A team of researchers recently set out to review the effects of microbial transglutaminase in children with celiac disease. Researchers Matthias Torsten and Lerner Aaron are affiliated with AESKU, KIPP Institute, Wendelsheim, Germany, and the Rappaport School of Medicine at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel.
    In their review, they report on the enzyme’s characteristics, exogenous intestinal sources, its ability to cross-link to gluten or gliadin, and to thus turn seemingly harmless proteins into disease triggering ones. 
    Their report relays several observations about the immunogenicity of microbial transglutaminase cross-linked complexes in celiac patients, as well as summarizing their pathogenicity, and highlighting possible risks for the gluten dependent conditions. Their stated hope is to promote additional research into the mechanics and disease-triggering channels underlying the gliadin cross linked enzyme and its promotion of celiac disease.
    The team anticipates that corroboration of their observations could reveal a new environmental trigger for the initiation of celiac disease. They are calling for further study, particularly of the physical mechanics of the process.
    The team’s research could lead to new understandings of the genesis of celiac disease in certain patients. Such a development would be very helpful to celiac disease research and understanding, in general, and could lead to new diagnosis and treatment options in the future.
    Front. Pediatr., 11 December 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2018.00389 Sciencedirect.com

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