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Government proposes labels on mechanically tenderized beef

The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing that meat packages containing mechanically tenderized meat be labeled and that consumers be warned to cook it adequately, USA Today and other news outlets reported today.

Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said the labeling is necessary because it is impossible to tell just by looking that a cut of meat has it has undergone mechanical tenderization, USA Today reported.

The Consumer Federation of America defines mechanical tenderization as “a process by which small needles or blades are repeatedly inserted into the product.”

“These needles or blades pierce the surface of the product, increasing the risk that any pathogens, such as E. coli or Salmonella, located on the surface of the product will be transferred to the interior. The process is often used on less expensive cuts of meat to increase tenderness,” CFA said in a news release.

CFA and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., praised the rule.

“In order to kill pathogens which may be located on the interior of these products, consumers must cook these products differently than they would intact steaks and roasts, said Chris Waldrop, CFA director of the Food Policy.

“Without labeling to identify these products as mechanically tenderized, and information on how to properly cook these products, consumers may be unknowingly at risk for foodborne illness,” Waldrop said.

DeLauro said, “With summer grilling season upon us, this proposed rule comes at a great time to raise awareness among consumers of how important it is to cook their meat appropriately. I strongly urge USDA to publish and implement the final rule in a timely manner so consumers are not left in the dark for another summer.”