Mechanically tenderized meat labels and food safety

New labeling and safe practices may reduce foodborne illnesses.

Beginning May 17, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) began requiring processors to label Mechanically Tenderized Beef (MTB) and to provide safe cooking instructions on their products.

Consumers enjoy tender beef and to increase tenderness, some cuts of beef are tenderized mechanically by piercing them with needles or small blades in order to break up tissue, this is MTB. While this process creates a desirable product, it is important for consumers to know that through the MTB process, pathogens from the surface of the meat could make their way to the interior of the meat. As a result, proper cooking becomes critical for food safety. Since consumers may not be able to determine if MTB has taken place, labeling is now required on products that have been mechanically tenderized along with safe cooking instructions.

What does this mean for the consumer? The Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends the following steps: 

  • Products like whole cuts of beef (steaks, chops and roasts) should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • A calibrated food thermometer should be used to measure the temperature before removing it from its heat source.
  • Meat should be given a rest time of 3 minutes after it has been removed from the heat source before carving. During this rest time, the internal temperature is either constant or slightly rises. The combination of the 145 degrees F and rest time destroys pathogens.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service predict that the changes brought about by this new rule could prevent hundreds of illnesses every year. Michigan State University Extension recommends using a calibrated thermometer to check the internal temperature of all food products prior to consuming to ensure food safety for you and your family. 

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