Posted August 12, 2013

USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) announced an extension of the comment period for a proposed rule, “Descriptive Designation for Needle- or Blade-Tenderized (Mechanically-Tenderized) Beef Products.”  The Federal Register Notice is available here. 

According to AgWeek, the rule was proposed in June, after the “Safe Food Coalition sent a petition to the Secretary of Agriculture” to request “regulatory action to require that the labels of mechanically tenderized beef products disclose the fact that the products have been mechanically tenderized.”  Concerns prompting the proposed rule include that this tenderizing method “potentially pushes pathogens from the exterior of the product to the interior.”   As a result, “higher interior meat temperatures and longer rest times after cooking are needed to destroy specific illness-causing pathogens.”  Unlike pounded or cubed beef, where “the consumer can see that the cut they are purchasing is not intact,” mechanically tenderized beef “could be mistakenly perceived by consumers to be whole, intact muscle cuts.” 
According to Meat & Poultry, the proposed rule would require labels to include the words “mechanically tenderized” and show “validated cooking methods, minimum internal temperature and resting time.”  The cost-benefit analysis led “FSIS officials to categorize costs associated with the labeling changes as “fairly low.”  FSIS estimates a one-time cost of $310 per label, with the aggregate cost for the industry estimated at $1.05 million, which would be annualized at $140,000 per year.