Mechanically tenderized beef labeling rule should be withdrawn, says AMI

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Mechanically tenderized beef Meat Bacteria

The proposed rule to label mechanically tenderized beef products would add unnecessary costs to production with little, if any, benefit to food safety, according to the American Meat Institute (AMI).

The trade association called for the rule to be withdrawn in comments submitted this week​, saying that the risk associated with mechanically tenderized beef products is very low and does not warrant the proposed labelling.

It said FSIS should focus on encouraging industry to use prevention technologies and good manufacturing practices to ensure safety.

AMI called the fact that USDA-FSIS is ignoring a 2002 risk assessment and not making data public on the final updated version in 2010 “unacceptable” ​and “inconsistent”.

A 2002 risk assessment found that mechanically tenderized (MT) products did not represent an increased concern relative to intact meat cuts.

However, they admitted that not all processors use the latest methods to produce mechanically tenderized or marinated products in a way that eliminates or minimizes E. coli O157:H7.

The agency could consider a labeling option for processors that are not able to state that E. coli is not reasonably likely to occur because they do not utilize some effective combination of… no high event program, no fabrication intervention, continued use of processes or procedures associated with recalls, said the trade body.

Proposed rule plans

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) announced plans to label mechanically tenderized beef products in June this year in a proposed rule​.

By including the descriptive consumers will be informed that it is non-intact and needs to be fully cooked in order to be rendered free of pathogenic bacteria, said USDA-FSIS.

The name would feature on labels of raw or partially cooked needle- or blade-tenderized beef products, including beef products injected with marinade or solution, unless they will be fully cooked at an official establishment.

Associated outbreaks

Since 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of six outbreaks attributable to needle- or blade-tenderized beef products, according to the proposed rule.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wanted a acceleration to the requirement to make labels mandatory by the start of 2014, instead of the planned January 2016, in a statement in June.

USDA's new requirement that the meat industry label cuts of meat that have been needle- or blade-tenderized is a common sense remedy that can protect consumers​,” said Sarah Klein, senior food safety attorney.

“This little-known but widespread industry practice can push surface pathogens to the interior of the meat, making those bacteria much harder to kill unless a consumer cooks the meat to well done​.”

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