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EU scientists conclude food additive used for binding meat is safe

06-Jun-2005

A panel of scientific experts at Europe's food agency concludes an enzyme preparation used as a food additive for binding reconstituted food is safe, and 'not likely' to raise the risk of allergic or intolerance response.

The opinion follows a request by the European Commission to investigate the preparation based on thrombin and fibrinogen derived from cattle and pigs.

 

The thrombin and fibrinogen combination, produced by a patented process, is used by the meat industry for reconstituting fresh meat to achieve meat of desirable size and form..

 

In July 2001, the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs confirmed the legal status of thethrombin:fibrinogen preparation, claiming it fulfilled the definition of a foodadditive laid down in Article 1(2) of Directive 89/107/EEC.

 

The enzyme preparation consists of thrombin (EC 3.4.21.5) and fibrinogen, both obtained from the blood plasma of cattle and pigs. The thrombin:fibrinogen preparation is applied to meat, where thrombin transforms fibrinogen to fibrin that interacts with collagen, enabling the binding of meat pieces in reconstituted meat. It can also be used for poultry, fish and seafood.

 

As thrombin and fibrinogen are derived from edible parts of animals, no toxicological tests are required.

 

"This thrombin:fibrinogen preparation is produced from plasma obtained from blood of cattle or pigs, hygienically collected in slaughterhouses under veterinary inspection," says the panel.

 

For many years, several meat products with added animal blood or plasma have been produced and consumed in different countries without adverse effect. The applied concentrations of this thrombin:fibrinogen preparation are in the same range as the concentrations of these proteins in meat products with added blood or plasma, continue the scientists in their recent opinion.

 

According to the EFSA researchers, any remaining thrombin would be partially inactivated by antithrombin III (also present in this thrombin:fibrinogen preparation).

 

In addition any residual thrombin would be further inactivated during cooking (poor stability with heating) and in the stomach after consumption (low pH conditions).

 

"Consumption of meat products containing this enzyme preparation are not likely to increase the risk of allergic or intolerance response," concludes the AFC panel.

 

Full details of the AFC opinion can be accessed at EFSA.

 

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