new to the gluten free journey?


Is Meat Glue Sabotaging Your Gluten Free Diet Improvements?

Pink Slime in Meat, Gluten-Free?

Do you find yourself at the grocery store staring at different cuts of meat trying to find the perfect piece to buy? You look at the color, marbling, and for the overall freshness of the meat. Little do you know; the meat industry could be using a pink slime meat glue enzyme to create that perfect piece of meat. This enzyme is called microbial transglutaminase, and it has been used secretly by the food industry for decades. Although this enzyme is technically gluten free, it has been shown to create intestinal damage that can mimic celiac disease (CD)

What is mTG (Microbial Transglutaminase) – AKA Meat Glue

Microbial transglutaminase (mTG), is produced from a bacterial strain, Streptoverticillium 1. Over the decades, it was isolated from the livers of guinea pigs for commercial use. Today, it can be sourced from the blood plasma of cows or pigs, at a cheaper cost. It is cultivated and dried into a powder. mTG is sprinkled on any type of meat or fish where it forms the protein cross links (pink slime), binding small scraps of meat together to form seamless large chunks of meat. The meat is then rolled, wrapped and refrigerated. A few hours later, you have a “brand new steak”. The process is done so well that even butchers can’t tell a fake steak from a real steak. It is also used in manufacturing cheese, dairy products, gelatin, edible films, and in baked goods. mTG improves the solubility, emulsifying capacity, foaming properties, and gelation in proteins. It also improves the texture and volumes of bread. Basically, mTG is used to make food look more attractive and appealing to consumers. Aside from meat and dairy products, mTG is often used to make “gluten free” baked goods, cereals, pasta, and breads. If you find yourself feeling like you have been “glutened” after eating these products, remember that meat glue may be the reason why.

Hidden Meat Glue – How to Avoid It

Food manufacturers are not required to inform consumers when they use the pink slime. However, you may see a label that reads, “formed from pieces of whole muscle meat” or “reformed from a single cut.” 4 Meat glue is commonly used in hot dogs, chicken nuggets, constituted “chicken breast” meat, microwaveable dinner meats, fish sticks, sushi, ham, ribs, dairy products… See the chart below for more details(Click the chart to see it full size).

Meat Glue Can Also be Used as Dairy Glue

I wrote about this problem in my book, No Grain No Pain. The texture of dairy products can also be improved by using mTG. Yogurt is treated with mTG and it produces a thicker and creamier product. Casein, one of the principle proteins in milk, can be modified with mTG to make creams, frozen desserts, ice cream, milk beverages, and dressings. For those with a gluten sensitivity, mTG treated dairy is perceived as gluten to the immune system. Adding mTG to a dairy product is like adding fuel to a fire. Therefore, those with a gluten sensitivity should be cautious of any form of mTG dairy in their diet. gluten and meat glue

Image from: Nutrition Reviews. 73(8), 544-552

mTG a Major Health Risk for Those With Gluten Issues

mTG can increase the risk for developing or flaring up celiac disease. Current research is focusing on the environmental exposures instead of genetic changes due to the increases in the incidence of celiac disease 2. The food industry’s goal is to make profits. In doing so, they mislead consumers into buying sub-par products labeled as prime or top quality. You can order a prime steak at a restaurant and it could be made out of scraps of meat glued together with the pink slime, mTG. For those with a gluten sensitivity, this can lead to GI inflammation. This is also seen in gluten free products which are modified with mTG in order to replace the gliadin. The texture of “gluten-free” breads, crackers, cookies can all be improved with mTG, but at a health cost to those with a gluten sensitivity. Gluten free products are already known to have possible cross contamination issues, but the use of mTG opens a proverbial new can of worms. Several studies have shown that food processed with mTG can cause cross reactivity in those with gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitive and celiac consumers will consume “gluten-free” labeled, mTG processed products and experience inflammatory flare ups. Biochemically, mTG is involved in three reactions, an acyl-transfer reaction, a crosslinking reaction (transamidation), and deamidation 1. Huh??? Basically, mTG alters food proteins to be more sticky, elastic, and resilient. In the deamidation reaction, glutamine (amino acid) is transformed into glutamate by mTG. This process will favor gluten peptide binding to HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 (celiac genes). Thus, stimulating an immunogenic response. Studies identify this as the key step in the pathogenesis of celiac disease 2. This also resembles the ill health effects of consuming monosodium glutamate (MSG) used in many Asian dishes and processed foods.

Meat Glue and Leaky Gut

It is known that gluten can cause a leaky gut. mTG used in food products causes changes in the proteins it binds, and can increase tight junction leakage in the gut (AKA – intestinal permeability). Consuming mTG altered food products mimics the gluten response in the gut. Another possible effect from mTG in the gut is an increased susceptibility to infections for those with celiac disease 2. mTG is another factor that can be added to the list of known causes of breaking down the gut’s protective barriers. The FDA has labeled mTG as a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) ingredient. However, the FDA also deemed aspartame as safe, which is known to be toxic. The immune system will recognize “pink slime” or “meat glue” as foreign as typically seen in someone with gluten sensitivity. In addition, consuming unhealthy meats can contribute to colon cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer and diabetes by more than 50% in most cases 3. To minimize your health risks associated with ingestion of mTG, choose meats and dairy products from local, organically raised, grass-fed animals. If you are unsure of where your meat is sourced from, ask your butcher or chef. Ask “Is this meat processed or a formed piece of meat made with mTG?” Hopefully, you can get an honest answer, but some chefs will continue deceiving many of their customers. Stick to buying your own meat and cooking it yourself. Avoid the pink slime in “frankenmeat” or “frankensushi”! In addition, do not eat any processed gluten free products or processed meat products. Stay informed by carefully reading your food labels. Lastly, think about what you are putting in your mouth and if the risks are worth it!   References:
  1. Kieliszek, M. and Misiewicz, A. (2013). Microbial transglutaminase and its application in the food industry. A review. Folia Microbiol. 59, 241-25
  2. Lerner, A., Matthias, T. (2015). Possible association between celiac disease and bacterial transglutaminase in food processing: a hypothesis. Nutrition Reviews. 73(8), 544-552.
  3. McCullgh, C. (2014). The Dangers of Meat Glue. Retrieved from
  4. Meat Glue: What is it and what you should know. (2016). Retrieved from Know
  5. Skovbjerg, H., Koch, C., Anthosen, D., Sjostrom, H. (2004). Deamidation and cross-linking ofgliadin peptides by transglutaminases and the relation to celiac disease. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. 1690(3), 220-230.
  6. Matthias T, et al. The industrial food additive, microbial transglutaminase, mimics tissue transglutaminase and is immunogenic in celiac disease patients. Autoimmun Rev. 2016 Dec;15(12):1111-1119.

12 Responses

  1. The article says to carefully read food labels. What should we specifically be looking for on the label to identify this ingredient?

  2. Thank you for this great article! It is so frustrating for us as consumers trying to make healthy, educated buying decisions to maximize our health when the food industry (and others) are relentlessly trying to sabotage our health. Can you post a list of brands and/or specific products known to contain this so we can make sure we avoid them?

  3. This crap needs to STOP! I hope Trump addresses the FDA and CDC on the destruction of our food supply;
    it’s an absolute abominable disgrace.

    And in the meantime – it should require total disclosure through mandated LABELING!

  4. No wonder so many people have allergies, auto-immune problems. I didn’t know this and I have an allergy to MSG & Gluten no wonder I feel bad after eating out and also have to use and have to use my inhaler for asthma.

  5. This was in a program on television just about three years ago. Have you seen how they make chicken nuggets?. The real problems come in when the animals you are being fed the grains that our body cannot tolerate. The milk from the cow that eats the grain from that genetically modified food. Its in the meat and milk from that cow.

  6. Need to make more organic drive threw places, and ones that offer gluten-free on the menu . It makes me angry that we live in a world of processed food with all these horrible chemicals in them and ppl are not educated on foods ect. I teach my grand kids about foods ,so the next generation will be educated . It has too start some where .

  7. Is there a product list in the making of things containing meat glue? I’m curious if non-dairy almond and coconut milk yogurt and ice creams are made creamy with this stuff, and which brands, in order to avoid them.

  8. An important topic that not many are talking about! Thank you, Dr. Osborne. I shared this on my Facebook page. I never made the correlation between all the weight I gained while working at Pizza Hut 25+ years ago and the pizza I’d been eating when we had “mistakes” made. I was hustling, climbing stairs, etc. so I was definitely burning a LOT of calories yet gained 20 pounds a year for each of the 3 years I worked there part-time and it’s taken me over 20 years to lose those pounds! How? By doing WildFit (eliminating all processed foods, grains, dairy, caffeine, etc.) Ha!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sing up to our newsletter for 10% off your first order!

Receive the latest strain releases, exclusive offers and 10% OFF welcome discount.