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California Lawmaker Calls For Probe Into Safety Of ‘Meat Glue’

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A butcher cuts pieces of beef at a meat packing and distribution facility in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A butcher cuts pieces of beef at a meat packing and distribution facility in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – Weeks after an outcry over the use of so-called ‘pink slime,’ a California legislator has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the potential dangers of steaks made with ‘meat glue.’

Meat glue is a powdered enzyme, transglutaminase, harvested from fermented bacteria that the Food and Drug Administration considers safe to patch together various pieces of meat into a single steak.

Sen. Ted Lieu said reports of allergic reactions to meat glue prompted him to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture study whether products made with transglutaminase pose any health risks, or have a greater chance of becoming contaminated.

“When you think of a whole steak straight from a cow,” he said, “the inside is sterile. But not when you glue it together from different parts.”

Lieu worries that filet mignon and other products glued together from different parts might require more cooking in order to ensure harmful bacteria have been killed, adding that better labeling may be necessary.

“You should have a right to know if the steak you are about to have is actually glued together from 25 different parts,” he said, a practice many consumers are unaware of.

Lieu also pointed out that products assembled with meat glue may also pose additional challenges for investigators trying to trace the source of food born illnesses.

Lieu sent a letter Thursday to the USDA, and urged the food industry not to wait for a federal investigation to adopt better labeling practices.

“We had a lot of responses to this story because consumers were just unaware that this was happening,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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