Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rule Delayed Requiring Labeling of Mechanically Tenderized Meat

A rule requiring the mandatory labeling of mechanically tenderized meat was delayed due to slow government action.

The rule was proposed because of the higher food safety risk associated when meat is tenderized using blades or needles.  The blades or needles can force bacteria deeper into the meat, and so this meat then needs to be cooked a little more in order to destroy those backer and thus ensure safety.  That is, you don't want to serve mechanically tenderized meat rare or medium needs to be cooked to 155F internal versus 145 F as is done for intact meat (straight cuts of steak).    Of course, many people do not know this, and cook those mechanically tenderized steaks like they would intact steaks..  Labeling would indicate to people that these steaks need to be cooked to 155F internal temperature.

Food Safety Magazine
Mandatory Labeling for Mechanically Tenderized Meat Delayed Until At Least 2018
News | January 5, 2015
 By Staff

According to a final rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), mechanically tenderized beef products will not require special safety labels for at least another three years. The tenderization process softens the meat with tools and devices that are known to cultivate pathogens that can lead to foodborne illness.

Initially proposed in mid-2013, the meat labeling rule would require that food packaging displays specific cooking instructions for meat products. FSIS’s concern has been that consumers are not cooking meat long enough to prevent foodborne illness. 

The labeling rule was not finalized as expected by December 31, 2014, thus it cannot take effect before 2018 according to FSIS requirements. Had the rule been cleared in a timely manner, the meat labeling requirements could have been enforced as soon as next year. The two-year incremental delay is meant to make changes easier for food manufacturers to comply. 

Proponents of meat labeling believe that consumers will be put at risk for another two years without more stringent instructions to follow when cooking meat. However, the meat industry has taken a stance against this labeling proposal, arguing that measures put in place by meat processors are sufficient in making sure that meat distributed to consumers is already safe.

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