Glossary of “Fine Print” on Deli Meats

April 06, 2016

What are all those ingredients in deli meats. Here's your guide!

ADDED SOLUTIONS (WITH JUICES): Products with added solutions that are cooked in an impervious bag and as a result of the cooking contain free flowing juices that are not drained, should be labeled to reflect the solution and the juices (e.g., "Roast Beef Contains up to 12 percent solution with Juices").

ADDED SOLUTIONS (POULTRY) (BONELESS): Boneless poultry products containing solutions can be labeled similarly to the PFF language for cured pork products, that is "Cured Chicken and Water Product X percent of Weight is Added Ingredients." The terms "with natural juices" or "water added" are not permitted since both terms do not adequately convey the amount of solution added to the poultry products. Additionally, the term "with natural juices" is misleading when a solution is introduced into poultry product by means of marinating, soaking, or injecting.

BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), TOCOPHEROLS (VITAMIN E): Antioxidants that help maintain the appeal and wholesome qualities of food by retarding rancidity in fats, sausages, and dried meats; as well as helping to protect some of the natural nutrients in foods, such as vitamin A.

BROMELIN: An enzyme that can dissolve or degrade the proteins collagen and elastin to soften meat and poultry tissue. It is derived from pineapple fruit and leaves, and is used as a meat tenderizer.

CARRAGEENAN: Seaweed is the source of this additive. It may be used in products as binder.

CITRIC ACID:  Widely distributed in nature in both plants and animals. It can be used as an additive to protect the fresh color of meat cuts during storage. Citric acid also helps protect flavor and increases the effectiveness of antioxidants.

CORN SYRUP: Sugar that is derived from the hydrolysis of corn starch. Uses include flavoring agent and sweetener in meat and poultry products.

EMULSIFIER: Substance added to products, such as meat spreads, to prevent separation of product components to ensure consistency. Examples of these types of additives include lecithin, and mono- and di-glycerides.

FICIN: Enzyme derived from fig trees that is used as a meat tenderizer.

GELATIN: Thickener form of collagen which is derived from the skin, tendons, ligaments, or bones of livestock. It may be used in canned hams or jellied meat products.

HUMECTANT: Substance added to foods to help retain moisture and soft texture. An example is glycerine, which may be used in dried meat snacks.

HYDROLYZED (SOURCE) PROTEIN: Flavor enhancers that can be used in meat and poultry products. They are made from protein obtained from a plant source such as soy or wheat, or from an animal source, such as milk. The source used must be identified on the label.

MODIFIED FOOD STARCH: Starch that has been chemically altered to improve its thickening properties. Before the starch is modified, it is separated from the protein through isolation techniques; therefore, the source of the starch used is not required on the label.

MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG): MSG is a flavor enhancer. It comes from a common amino acid, glutamic acid, and must be declared as monosodium glutamate on meat and poultry labels.

PAPAIN: An enzyme that can dissolve or degrade the proteins collagen and elastin to soften meat and poultry tissue. It is derived from the tropical papaya tree and is used as a meat tenderizer.

PHOSPHATES: The two beneficial effects of phosphates in meat and poultry products are moisture retention and flavor protection. An example is the use of phosphates in the curing of ham where approved additives are sodium or potassium salts of tripolyphosphate, hexametaphosphate, acid pyrophosphate, or orthophosphates, declared as "phosphates" on labels.

PROPYL GALLATE: Used as an antioxidant to prevent rancidity in products such as rendered fats or pork sausage. It can be used in combination with antioxidants such as BHA and BHT.

SODIUM CASEINATE: Used as a binder in products such as frankfurters and stews.

SODIUM ERYTHORBATE: The sodium salt of erythorbic acid, a highly refined food-grade chemical closely related to vitamin C, synthesized from sugar, and used as a color fixative in preparing cured meats.

SODIUM NITRITE: Used alone or in conjunction with sodium nitrate as a color fixative in cured meat and poultry products (bologna, hot dogs, bacon). Helps prevent growth of Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism in humans.

TEXTURIZERS/STABILIZERS/THICKENERS: Used in foods to help maintain uniform texture or consistency. These are substances that are commonly called binders. Examples are gelatin and carrageenan.

WHEY, DRIED: The dried form of a component of milk that remains after cheese making. Can be used as a binder or extender in various meat products, such as sausage and stews.