A new set of labels is on the way from the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
These will deal with raw or partially cooked beef products that have been mechanically tenderized. According to the FSIS, consumers, restaurants, and other food service facilities “will now have more information about the products they are buying, as well as useful cooking instructions so they know how to safely prepare them.”
The hazards of tenderizing
Product tenderness is a key selling point for beef products. To increase tenderness, some cuts are tenderized mechanically by piercing them with needles or small blades in order to break up tissue. This process, says the FSIS, can introduce pathogens from the surface of the cut to the interior, making proper cooking very important.
The potential presence of pathogens in the interior of these products means they should be cooked differently than intact cuts. Officials say the new labeling requirements are needed because mechanically tenderized products look no different than intact product, but that consumers need to know that they should be handled differently.
Under the new rule, will become effective in May 2016, or one year from the date of the rule’s publication in the Federal Register, these products must bear labels that state that they have been mechanically, blade or needle tenderized.
The labels must also include validated cooking instructions so that consumers know how to prepare them safely. The instructions will have to specify the minimum internal temperatures and any hold or “dwell” times for the products to ensure that they are fully cooked.
“Labeling mechanically tenderized beef products and including cooking instructions on the package are important steps in helping consumers to safely prepare these products,” said Deputy USDA Under Secretary Al Almanza. “This common sense change will lead to safer meals and fewer foodborne illnesses.”
Since 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 6 outbreaks attributable to needle or blade tenderized beef products prepared in restaurants and consumers’ homes. Failure to cook a mechanically tenderized raw or partially cooked beef product thoroughly was found to be a significant contributing factor in each of these outbreaks.
FSIS predicts the changes brought by this rule could prevent hundreds of illnesses every year.