One dirty secret of industrial food

Paul Kamon‘s foodie site Urban Diner is great for news about local dining. At the UD Forum, most participants are professionals, including owners, chefs, servers and other industry insiders and suppliers. There are a few folks, like me, who are consumers, observers or wannabes but, unlike me, they are informed and engaged.

Mostly, Urban Diner is a fun look at trends in BC food and wine but this week an issue surfaced that seems worthy of discussion here. The connection is my consistent view that citizens need watchdogs to ensure the safety of manufactured products and foods that we routinely use and ingest. Without help of impartial oversight, how can citizens protect their families from whatever industry throws at us.

In a discussion of meat glue — “the meat industry’s dirty secret” — one UD contributor wrote this,

“FFS, is there an end to the endless lies we are subjected to in the name of profit?”

The subject was transglutaminase, smething classified as a GRAS product. OK, you might be asking, “FFS, what does that mean?” GRAS is a regulatory term “generally regarded as safe.” According to the American FDA, transglutaminase, or meat glue, is GRAS. Health Canada also approves the product, although not without criticism.

FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform) asks “How effective is Canada’s meat-inspection system?”

More controversy has surrounded “meat glue”. The “glue” is a natural protein derived from cow or pig blood. It allows meat processors to stick together various lumps of meat into a regular-looking steak, roast, or kebab. In the meat business, it’s known as “restructured beef”.

Canada allows the product to be sold here, but the European parliament rejected it for sale in the EU in May because of concerns that artificial steaks could mislead the public. “Consumers in Europe should be able to trust that they are buying a real steak or ham, not pieces of meat that have been glued together,” Jo Lienen, chair of the parliament’s environment committee, said during debate on the issue.

The glue also raises food-safety issues, says Keith Warriner, an associate professor of food science at the University of Guelph, in a phone interview from his office. If there is a bacteria outbreak, it’s much harder to figure out the source when chunks of meat from multiple cows were combined.

Also, the products need to be fully cooked, like ground beef, to kill bacteria. A regular steak is safe to eat medium-rare because only its surface has bacteria. But when different cuts of meat are blended together, the product may have contaminated surfaces on the inside, and it has to be cooked to an internal temperature of 71 ° C (160 ° F). This, Warriner says, could lead to confusion among consumers used to cooking their steaks medium-rare (63 ° C, or 145 ° F).

The lesson is know your food supplier. Deal with folks like the family at Moccia Urbani Foods at 2276 East Hastings. Their real business is dry cured natural products – simply fabulous – but three days a week, their small store opens for retail sales. Please though, do not buy the last of the pork belly or bacon. Leave it, in case that’s my day to shop. BTW, at Moccia, for their products, they can can name the breed of heritage animal and the farm that produced it. Or, if that East Vancouver supplier is not convenient, ask around for a similar one. We must support the ethical food providers. That may not even cost more when you factor in shrinkage and waste.

Wait for the short advertisement to finish then watch this five minute news feature from Australia.

A balanced view of meat glue at Cooking Issues.

Categories: Deregulation

6 replies »

  1. My favourite ethical food store is Trader Joe's in Bellingham — great prices too!!

    Their on-line flyer is a fun read — very different.


  2. Because of the HST. There are underground systems cropping up in many areas of BC. Especially now with the cost of food raising up 7 to 10% more. There will be more bought from the farmer growing produce. Ranchers producing beef. In our underground now, all we buy is coffee, sugar tea and flour from the supermarkets. Chickens and eggs, a lady who bakes home made bread. The savings are great, I have saved a lot of money that way. I saved $2,000 through the underground on a kitchen reno.

    The food through the underground, is much safer. There is always a recall on, from some contamination or other, in the supermarkets. Undergrounds are very easy to set up. And the home grown tastes so good, I will stay with the underground forever.


  3. Of course, Canada's food police are there to shut down any serious efforts to by-pass the industrial rules for food production. That includes marketing boards and the quota systems, which are as much designed to limit product quality as product quantity.

    You are correct that food prices are rising but part of the reason is commodity speculation by the investment community. More at this posting:


  4. Canada is a country that can feed the world. But as you say, we are not allowed to over produce. We must keep the prices as high as possible, we must create a demand. We pay more for our food, than the other country's, who we export food products to.

    We have, abundant oil and gas reserves, also minerals. In BC we have the highest gas prices. Campbell destroyed our hydro, for greed only. There is not one good reason, why our hydro should go up by 50%. Campbell thieved and sold our rivers. To fatten certain wallets.

    Campbell thieved our BCR and sold that too. The real estate from the BCR, was worth a fortune, fattening more certain wallets.

    Canada is corrupt to the core, and BC is the most corrupt province in Canada. It is the greed of the huge wealthy corporations, that hoards the money, and forces recessions. They call all the shots. Harper is taking from us, to give to big business. Harper is setting Canada up for a Global Governance. Use your imagination, to figure out, what and who the Global Governance is.


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