FSIS proposes mechanically-tenderized beef rules

New rules may be on the way for mechanically-tenderized beef products.

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) proposed new requirements for labeling beef that has been mechanically tenderized as well as adding additional cooking instructions to help consumers cook it safely.

Mechanical tenderization is a process some meat cuts undergo to increase tenderness. During the process, either needles or blades pierce the meat to help break up muscle fibers. However, during this process, the blades or needles may inadvertently transfer pathogens from the surface of the meat to the interior. Although cooking kills pathogens on the outside of the meat, if the bacteria have been transferred to the interior, they may pose a risk for foodborne illness that would not typically be a concern in intact meat products.

Consumer groups have been pushing for the measure for a while now and, until today, the rules had been under review in the Office of Management and Budget.

Since 2003, five outbreaks related to mechanically-tenderized beef have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Ensuring that consumers have effective tools and information is important in helping them protect their families against foodborne illness,” said Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen in a statement. “This proposed rule would enhance food safety by providing clear labeling of mechanically-tenderized beef products and outlining new cooking instructions so that consumers and restaurants can safely prepare these products.”

Last month, Canada announced it would begin requiring labels for mechanically-tenderized cuts by July 2 as part of its rollout of the Safe Food for Canadians Act.

To read the compliance guidelines for mechanically-tenderized meat, click here.

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