New Beef Labeling|Rules Considered

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) wants to require mechanically-tenderized beef to be labeled as such, and to include additional safe-handling instructions on the label, according to a proposed rule.
     “The mechanical tenderization process involves piercing the product with a set of needles or blades, which breaks up muscle fiber and tough connective tissue, resulting in increased tenderness,” the rule says. “The process makes the less tender cuts of beef more marketable to consumers.” The term also applies to beef that has been injected with a marinade or solution, according to FSIS.
     The proposed rule is a response to petitions by the Safe Food Coalition and the Conference for Food Protection about the risk that bacteria from the meat’s surface could be pushed more-deeply into the meat because of these methods, the agency says, noting this could be especially risky for those who prefer their steaks “rare” or “medium rare.” Mechanical tenderization does not change the appearance of the meat, so consumers might be unaware of the need for hotter cooking temperatures and longer cooking times with meat that has been processed in this way.
     FSIS also announced it has posted a guidance document on its Web site that mechanically-tenderized beef producers can use to develop safe cooking instructions for consumers of their product.
     The rule would not apply to all tenderization, the agency says. “Other tenderization methods such as pounding and cubing change the appearance of the product, putting consumers on notice that the product is not intact. Additionally, a majority of establishments already identify products that have been cubed on the label,” FSIS explains. The agency does not plan to require mechanically-tenderized poultry or pork to be labeled at this time.
     The agency proposes that “the print for all words in the descriptive designation, as well as the words in the description of the product, appear in the same font style, color, and size as the product name and on a single-color contrasting background.”
     Comments are due by Aug. 9.

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