Umami, the fifth taste

Monosodium glutamate is the purest form of Umami, one of the five tastes besides sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami means “essence of deliciousness” in Japanese, and its taste is often described as the meaty, savory deliciousness that deepens flavor. Discover facts about Umami

Discover Kokumi

Kokumi is a Japanese word literally meaning “rich taste”. While Umami imparts savory flavor or meatiness, Kokumi is a sense of richness, body and complexity that some compare to the way wines age and improve over time. Although, Kokumi substances have no taste of their own, they seem to make other foods taste and feel better, enhancing not only umami but also salty and sweet flavors. Read more about Kokumi.

About Transglutaminase

Transglutaminase is a widely occurring enzyme in nature, made up of single chains of amino acids, and has been studied by many researchers for food use around the world. The transglutaminase contained in the ACTIVA® preparation is produced during a fermentation process similar to the production of beer, wine and cheese, using conventional microorganisms.
Enzymes are proteins - the primary constituents of living things. Their role is to ensure that biochemical reactions within our cells are run. Without enzymes, those reactions simply wouldn’t occur or would run too slowly to sustain life. Enzymes are responsible for building up and breaking down all biological material. They occur naturally in all living organisms, including human beings. Enzymes have been used for centuries to manufacture foods such as beer, cheese and wine.
A food enzyme is a product obtained from a natural source (plants, animals or micro-organisms). A food enzyme is capable of catalyzing a specific biochemical reaction and is added to food for a technological purpose at any stage of the food production process. Food enzymes have been used for centuries to manufacture foods such as beer, cheese and wine.
Transglutaminase in ACTIVA® preparation is able to improve the physical properties of various foods containing proteins. The use of the product offers various benefits to food companies and final consumers. In bakery and milk products, the ACTIVA® preparation improves the texture. In processed meat products, such as emulsified sausages and cooked ham, it improves the texture and increases the connectivity, thus decreasing loss during the manufacturing process. In meat and fish, the ACTIVA® preparation enables combining quality parts of meat/fish, decreasing loss and waste, and consequently reducing the price of the final products. This is an important contribution to a responsible and sustainable food chain. This also helps to reduce the negative environmental effects of farming by maximizing the use of the food that is produced. ACTIVA® preparations can also replace binding agents such as salt, allowing consumers to benefit from a lower salt intake.
Transglutaminase catalyzes the cross-linking of side chains of two amino acids (glutamine and lysine) in liquefied proteins, and thus yielding to an ε- (γ-glutamyl)-lysine bond. This bond is stable against heat treatment or physical stress. Typically, transglutaminase works within the protein of food materials, and contributes to improving texture properties. In case transglutaminase is used to combine quality meat/fish parts, transglutaminase works on proteins which are added to the food applications. Transglutaminase itself does not combine meat/fish parts and does not have any technological effect on the final product.
Yes, transglutaminase exists in microorganisms, plants and animals, including beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish and vegetables, all of which have been traditionally consumed.  
There are different types of ACTIVA® preparations available for different applications.
Many natural and chemical products help binding quality meat/fish parts. Salt, for example, is traditionally used to strengthen binding between whole meat muscles in cured ham. Other agents which function similarly are starch, egg white, soy protein, citric acid etc. Transglutaminase is an enzyme that naturally occurs in humans, animals, plants and micro-organisms. In the presence of liquefied proteins transglutaminase helps to combine meat/fish parts into one piece, which prevents the waste of quality meat/fish.
Transglutaminase does not affect the taste of food.
Tissue transglutaminase (tTG) which exists in the human body is a member of the transglutaminase family. As opposed to microbial transglutaminase (mTG) contained in ACTIVA® preparations, tTG is Ca²+ dependent, has higher molecular weight and far higher deamidation activity. Also, the sequence homology and the three-dimensional structure are different. Thus, the characteristics of tTG are different from mTG, although it also catalyzes the cross-linking of side chains of two amino acids, glutamine and lysine, in liquefied proteins.
A hydroxamate method is used to measure the transglutaminase activity of ACTIVA® preparations. A sensitivity method with fluorescence substances is also available. A transglutaminase assay kit is available from Sigma-Aldrich corporation.

Regulatory Status

Transglutaminase is considered as a processing aid under the current EU Regulation and therefore does not need to be included in the list of ingredients on food products for consumers.
Regulation (EC) 1332/2008 has entered into force in January 2009. It regulates the use of food grade enzymes in the European Union. Among others, this regulation aims to establish a positive list of enzymes, which will be allowed to be used in food after an evaluation by EFSA, the authorization by the Commission and the vote of the Parliament. Manufacturers of enzymes were asked to submit dossiers for their enzymes before the deadline in March 2015. The dossier for Ajinomoto’s transglutaminase from Streptoverticillium mobaraense has been submitted in time. It is currently under evaluation by EFSA. Updates on the evaluation process can be found on EFSA’s internet site (link). Until the positive list has been drawn up, food enzymes and food using food enzymes may be placed on the market and used in accordance with the existing national rules in the Member States.
In France transglutaminase is regarded as a processing aid and approved in heated fish products, meat products, bakery, certain dairy products, snacks based on vegetables, egg or milk protein and UHT milk other than cow’s milk. In Denmark, the same applications are authorized based on the principle of mutual recognition between the two countries.
Transglutaminase is approved for food use in many countries other than EU member states, including, but not limited to, U.S.A., Canada, Brazil, Japan, Korea, China and Thailand. Transglutaminase is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) in U.S.A.. A complete GRAS notice is available at the US FDA web-site (link)
According to regulation (EC) 1333/2008, article 3, 2. (b), processing aids are defined as follows: ‘processing aid’ shall mean any substance which:
  • is not consumed as a food by itself;
  • is intentionally used in the processing of raw materials, foods or their ingredients, to fulfil a certain technological purpose during treatment or processing; and
  • may result in the unintentional but technically unavoidable presence in the final product of residues of the substance or its derivatives provided they do not present any health risk and do not have any technological effect on the final product;
An example of a processing aid are enzymes commonly used in beer production. A processing aid accomplishes its task during the production process but has lost its function in the final product.
Specific labeling of transglutaminase is not required from regulatory viewpoint. Different from food additives, transglutaminase has no technological effect on the final product in general. Transglutaminase in ACTIVA® preparation is not an exception, it has no technological effect on the final product due to the fact that the enzyme is either irreversibly denatured through heating, the substrate of the enzyme has been depleted or because the enzyme is entrapped in the food matrix even if technologically unavoidable residues remain in the product. However, according to regulation (EU) 1169/2011 the name of the final product should be chosen in order not to mislead the consumers. Meat products, meat preparations and fishery products which may give the impression that they are made of a whole piece of meat or fish, but actually consist of different pieces combined together by other ingredients, including food additives and food enzymes or by other means, shall bear the indication “formed meat” or “formed fish”.


Microbial transglutaminase used in ACTIVA® preparations is a safe food enzyme which has been utilized in Europe for more than 25 years and is approved in numerous other regions.
A standard range of safety studies which are required by regulatory bodies all over the world for food ingredients was performed with transglutaminase used in ACTIVA®.
The allergenicity of the microbial transglutaminase was evaluated by a medical group at the National University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2004 (Pedersen et al., Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2004: 48(6), 434-440) using the standard FAO/WHO Decision Tree. The researchers concluded that there are no safety concerns with regards to the allergenic potential of microbial transglutaminase used in food.
Transglutaminase (TG) is a natural enzyme present in food materials, especially uncooked proteins, such as egg white, Tartar steak, sushi or oysters. Presently, CD patients are advised to avoid glutens, but not the above proteins. Thus, they are often exposed to naturally present TG, yet no side effects have ever been reported after ingestions of the above protein foods. Similarly, ACTIVA® preparations containing microbial TG (mTG) have been marketed broadly in Europe for more than 15 years without any reported incidents of CD. These non-findings indicate that food-present TG does not contribute to the pathology of CD. Finally, a recent report by Treppiccione and colleagues (Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 74(6):728-733, June 2022) indicated that food-added mTG in the presence of an amine donor can actually decrease the immuno-stimulatory activity of gluten in CD patients.
Like all enzymes, transglutaminase is classified as respiratory sensitizer. Appropriate protective equipment shall be used for workers who are handling the enzyme.

Celiac Disease & transglutaminase

Celiac disease is a maladaptation in which the ingestion of gluten-containing grains (e. g., wheat) leads to symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating and malnutrition, due to interactions with digesta in the intestinal tract. Prevention requires avoidance of foods containing gluten.
mTG and tTG have the same function in that they both catalyze a cross-linking reaction, but differ with respect to location, structure and reaction characteristics (calcium dependence, substrate specificity, etc.). These enzymes are thus called isozymes.
Celiac disease requires the production and deamidation of gliadin peptides. Eating foods from which gluten has been removed is thus recommended to prevent celiac disease. Patients with celiac disease must therefore avoid food containing gluten, regardless of whether it contains transglutaminase or not. Foods containing normal transglutaminase-processed gluten must also be avoided. When transglutaminase is used in food products that do not contain gluten, these foods are considered acceptable because no gliadin peptides are produced
Many biological materials such as meat, fish and vegetables, etc., are consumed as food. During the course of cooking these materials, cross-links can be formed by heating and t TG. Consequently, processed foods (fish cake, foie gras, stew, etc.) contain many naturally occurring cross-links that humans have been consuming for a very long time. There are no reported problems (to the extent of our investigations) associated with ingesting cross-linked materials. The same can be said for patients with celiac disease.

Environmental Impact & Benefits

Because ACTIVA® preparation allows the combination of meat/fish parts, it enables people to use quality parts of meat/fish which otherwise would not have been used and thus makes the most use of the food possible. This is important in maintaining a sustainable food chain and to assist those who have limited access to food and poor food security to maximise their resources.
Farming and agriculture in general produce a significant percentage of the world's carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore vital that we use the food resources efficiently. TG facilitates this by allowing the use of quality meat/fish parts that may otherwise not have been fully utilized.


Respecting the consumers’ right to have appropriate information, Ajinomoto has advised the European Commission and EU Member States in 2009 that the end product produced from quality meat/fish parts could be labelled as “Combined Meat Parts” or “Combined Fish Parts”. This advice was appreciated by consumer representatives and taken on board by the European Commission. According to the current regulation the name of the final product should be chosen in order not to mislead the consumers. Meat products, meat preparations and fishery products which may give the impression that they are made of a whole piece of meat or fish, but actually consist of different pieces combined together by other ingredients, including food additives and food enzymes or by other means, shall bear the indication “formed meat” or “formed fish”. These types of labelling will prevent the misleading of consumers.
Further information is available on Ajinomoto's general website
In an online survey conducted by the PA International Foundation in August and September 2009 on the subject of consumer preference and meat products, a majority of consumers preferred the label "combined meat parts" with, if applicable, the added words "low fat" or "no bones". In the same poll 70% of the consumers indicated that meat and fish parts “should never be thrown away”. 66% said they “do not mind if meat or fish parts are technically put together” while 82% of those 66% stated they “want to be informed that the product they buy is made of meat/fish parts technically put together”.