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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

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

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      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 is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He 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 SF 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.

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