California Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) has sent a May 3, 2012, letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service, asking the agency to investigate the restaurant industry’s use of transglutaminase or “meat glue” to allegedly bind together “disparate parts of meat products to form a larger piece of meat.” Citing unnamed media reports, Lieu claims that caterers and other facilities sometimes use transglutaminase to combine meat scraps into whole steaks, which are then sold as more expensive cuts like filet mignon. According to the letter, this practice not only deceives customers who believe they have purchased a higher quality product, but purportedly poses a health risk insofar as “reformed” steak may contain contaminated meat that is not thoroughly cooked or served rare.

“I respectfully request the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to thoroughly investigate the industry’s use of meat glue, the possible dangers posed by meat glue, and how consumers can be warned that they are eating glued meat,” wrote Lieu, who also noted that meat glue could make it more difficult for authorities to trace the sources of foodborne illness outbreaks. “[A]s a matter of honesty and the consumer’s right to know[,] food suppliers, restaurants, and banquet facilities should not be deceiving the public into thinking they are eating a whole steak if in fact the steak was glued together from various meat parts.” See MSNBC.com, April 27, 2012; Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2012.