Stephanie Armour / Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — Beef producers said the depiction of meat glue by consumer activists is unfair and the industry’s practice of using transglutaminase to bind pieces of meat into a single cut is safe.

The American Meat Institute, a Washington-based trade group that includes Cargill and Tyson Foods, released information showing how transglutaminase is used in dairy, seafood and baked goods as well as in beef for texture or to bind cuts together. Transglutaminase is an enzyme sold for almost two decades and has inaccurately been nicknamed meat glue for “shock appeal,” the group said Monday.

“Someone gave it a catchy name, so now it’s catching on,” said Jeremy Russell, a spokesman with the National Meat Association, another industry lobbying group.

The industry is trying to gain control of the debate over transglutaminase after a public backlash earlier this year over ammonia-treated beef scraps that consumer activists dubbed “pink slime” led to lost business for Beef Products and other companies. Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., last week called for a U.S. Agriculture Department investigation into transglutaminase because of potential contamination risks.

“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,” Lieu said in a letter to the agency.

“I just don’t think consumers should be paying more,” he said.

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