EU lawmakers give ‘meat glue’ red card

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The European Parliament has voted to ban bovine and porcine thrombin used as an additive to bind separate pieces of meat together into one piece. The House said the meat glue has no proven benefit for consumers and might mislead them instead.

With 370 votes in favour, 261 against and 32 abstentions, the Parliament voted yesterday (19 May) to block EU-level approval of meat glue additives.

The ban was enforced with a majority of just one vote, as 369 votes were needed to veto the proposal.

The motion for a resolution was initiated by MEP Åsa Westlund (Sweden, S&D) in the Parliament's committee for the environment, public health and food safety. The committee backed her objection last month with 31 votes in favour and 21 against, amid no abstentions.

'Meat glue' is an enzyme composed of thrombin and fibrogen, obtained from blood plasma. It can be used by the meat industry as a food additive for reconstituting fresh meat to create a product of desirable size and form. The method can also be applied to poultry, fish and seafood.

The Parliament estimated that there is "a clear risk that meat containing thrombin would find its way into meat products served in restaurants or other public establishments serving food, given the higher prices that can be obtained for pieces of meat served as a single meat product".

The advantages and benefits for consumers of thrombin have not been demonstrated, the House added.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave a positive safety opinion on the use of 'meat glue' in 2005. The European Commission called for it to be approved and added to a positive list of additives in an EU Directive on Food Additives if accompanied by proper labelling requirements.

The extremely narrow vote followed recommendations by the centre-right European People's Party in support of the Commission's proposal to authorise thrombin.

Spanish European People's Party member Pilar Ayuso stressed that meat glue had been declared safe and was already used in some countries.

Meanwhile, German MEP Jo Leinen (Socialists & Democrats), chair of the European Parliament's environment committee, said that "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".

French MEP Corinne Lepage (ALDE) added that "beyond this specific case, the European Parliament has sent a political message to the Commission defending transparency towards the consumer and refusing to accept poor quality food".

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