Mechanically Tenderized Meat Could Be Dangerous

USDA proposes new labeling plan to combat foodborne illness

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Mechanically tenderized meat could spread foodborne illness.

That extra-tender cut of beef could carry a foodborne illness if you’re not careful.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing new regulations for the labeling of mechanically tenderized meat.

In the interest of protecting consumers from foodborne pathogens, the USDA is proposing a new labeling initiative. The initiative would require all mechanically tenderized meat to be clearly marked as such and would include instructions as to how to properly cook the meat to minimalize risk.

Officials worry that the mechanical process, in which needles or small blades puncture a piece of meat in order to break up muscle fibers, could increase the risk of foodborne illness. During the tenderization process, pathogens can be transferred from the exterior of the cut to the interior of the meat by the blades or needles as they pass through the flesh.

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The Centers for Disease Control has reported five outbreaks of foodborne illness related to mechanically tenderized meat since 2003. These outbreaks apparently stemmed from improperly prepared meat in both private residences and in restaurants, most likely attributed to undercooking.