Mechanically Tenderized Beef To Finally Be Labeled

We have no idea if this Budget Beef is mechanically tenderized, as it is visually no different than meat that doesn't go through the process. (photo: catastrophegirl)

We have no idea if this Budget Beef is mechanically tenderized, as it is visually no different than meat that doesn’t go through the process. (photo: catastrophegirl)

More than a quarter of all beef sold in the U.S. is mechanically tenderized, meaning that machines with tiny little blades have been used to make the raw product more tender. But this step can also have the effect of driving surface pathogens deeper into the meat where they might not be killed during the cooking process. Since 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of six outbreaks attributable to these products. Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was going to require labels for mechanically tenderized beef. Those labeling rules have now been finalized and will go into effect a year from now.

The rules [PDF] will require labels stating “mechanically tenderized,” “blade tenderized,” or “needle tenderized” on packages of raw or partially cooked beef products that have been through any of these processes. This includes some beef products that have been injected with a marinade or solution.

Under normal circumstances, a labeling change like this wouldn’t kick in until the next Uniform Compliance Date for Food Labeling Regulations. In this case, it would be Jan. 1, 2018. However, the USDA believes this particular change merits an accelerated effective date, so the labels will be required a year from when the rule is published in the Federal Register (so, May or June 2016).

To the supermarket shopper, mechanically tenderized beef looks no different than the other meat products available. However, the USDA believes that because of the potential for pathogens inside these pre-tenderized products, the consumers need to be made aware so they know about the possible risk before showing down on a blood-red rare burger or steak.

And so the rule doesn’t just use labels to alert customers to the fact that a product has been mechanically tenderized. The labels must also include cooking instructions for safe preparation. These instructions must specify minimum internal temperatures and any hold times for the products to ensure that they are fully cooked.

“Labeling mechanically tenderized beef products and including cooking instructions on the package are important steps in helping consumers to safely prepare these products,” said Deputy Under Secretary Al Almanza. “This common sense change will lead to safer meals and fewer foodborne illnesses.”

[via Kansas City Star]

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