FSIS Proposes New Labeling Rules For Mechanically Tenderized Beef Products

June 6, 2013

2 Min Read
FSIS Proposes New Labeling Rules For Mechanically Tenderized Beef Products

WASHINGTONUSDAs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is seeking comments on proposed new requirements for labeling beef products that would require mechanically tenderized product be labeled so consumers know they are purchasing product that has been mechanically tenderized. The rule also would require the labels of mechanically tenderized product to display validated cooking instructions, so consumers have the information they need to cook this product in a way that destroys illness-causing pathogens.

To increase tenderness, some cuts of beef go through a process known as. Research has shown that mechanical tenderization, during which they are pierced by needles or sharp blades in order to break up muscle fibers, may transfer pathogens present on the outside of the cut to the interior. Because of the possible presence of pathogens in the interior of the product, mechanically tenderized beef products may pose a greater threat to public health than intact beef products, if they are not cooked properly.

"Ensuring that consumers have effective tools and information is important in helping them protect their families against foodborne illness," said Undersecretary Elisabeth Hagen. "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."

Since 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received reports of five outbreaks attributable to needle or blade tenderized beef products prepared in restaurants and consumers' homes. Failure to thoroughly cook a mechanically tenderized raw or partially cooked beef product was a significant contributing factor in all of these outbreaks. In developing this proposed rule, FSIS used data from its own research, from the Agricultural Research Service, and from the CDC to determine the public health risk associated with undercooking mechanically tenderized products, and the benefits of the proposed rule.

Last August, a coalition of food safety advocates is calling on the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately approve a proposal to label mechanically tenderized beef products, which would provide consumers with information on how to properly cook the products and reduce their risk for foodborne illness.

In an Aug. 24 letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, members of the Safe Food Coalition also asked USDA to develop and implement a sampling program for the detection of pathogens in non-intact beef products. The letter also stated that USDA also should implement an educational outreach campaign to inform the public and foodservice meat purchasers about the proper cooking and handling procedures necessary to reduce the risk of foodborne illness from mechanically tenderized beef products

Electronic comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov. Written comments can be sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), FSIS, OPPD, RIMD, Docket Clearance Unit, Patriots Plaza III, Room 8-164, 355 E Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-3221.

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