The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently started requiring meat processors to affix labels to their beef products indicating that it has been mechanically tenderized, along with safe cooking instructions for consumers to follow.

Because beef tenderness is a key selling point for beef products, meat processors pierce and puncture slabs of meat with blades and needles to break up tough tissue. This process is referred to as mechanical tenderizing, which can take place before packaging, at the retail butcher counter, in a restaurant or even at home.

The problem is that the tenderizing process can introduce pathogens--Salmonella or E. coli--that get transferred from the meat’s surface to its interior, which is why FSIS has required packaging labels to include safe cooking instructions that should kill those pathogens. Another reason why labels were deemed necessary is because mechanically tenderized meat looks exactly the same as traditional meat. Now, mandatory labels will educate consumers on what they are buying and what food safety risks are associated with mechanically tenderized products.

Products such as ground beef and cubed steak are not subject to this new labeling rule since they are considered non-intact, or not composed of solid muscle.

Related articles:
New Labeling for Mechanically Tenderized Beef Set for May 2016

Sign up for Food Safety Magazine’s bi-weekly emails!