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USDA Recommends Labeling Mechanically Tenderized Meat

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service released a proposed rule for adding labels to mechanically tenderized meat that would include new cooking instructions.

When beef is tenderized mechanically, the machinery can transfer pathogens from the outside of the meat to the interior. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified five outbreaks since 2003 linked to mechanically tenderized beef.


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

The Consumers Union applauded the proposed rule.

"We have been calling for a label for mechanically tenderized meat for years because consumers deserve to know what they're putting in their carts and on their tables. Putting a label on mechanically tenderized meat that also includes cooking instructions is a common sense step that will help protect consumers and their families from unnecessary and often serious illness," Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in a statement.

The American Meat Institute issued a statement supporting the new cookings instructions but disagrees with aspects of the labeling.

“However, requiring that familiar products like ‘Sirloin Steak’ now be called ‘Mechanically Tenderized Sirloin Steak’ will lead consumers to believe that this product is new or different than those with which they are familiar. If, for example, Ford were suddenly forced to call an Explorer a ‘Robotically Assembled Ford Explorer,’ a buyer might think the car has been significantly changed,” said AMI Executive Vice President James H. Hodges.

Hodges added the product could still be called simply "sirloin steak" with information about mechanical tenderization elsewhere on the package.

AMI further states that most of the illnesses linked to mechanically tenderized meat involved products that were also marinated, and such products should be labeled differently than those without a marinade or solution.

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