Recipetips.com explains that meat is usually tenderized so that tougher and cheaper cuts of meat can become as tender as the more expensive cuts. There are numerous methods of tenderizing meat, including using a mallet at home, marinating the cut, and rubbing it with dried herbs and spices. However, there are also mechanical ways of tenderizing meat, which involves pounding slabs of meat with needles or blades.
In today’s economy, eating cheaper cuts of meat is important for many families. There is, however, a problem with mechanically tenderizing meat. Every time the meat, often beef, is pierced by a needle or blade, there is the possibility that contaminants are driven into the meat. One such contaminant is Escherichia coli. If the meat is cooked at a high enough temperature, any contaminants should be killed, but unfortunately, this does not always happen.
According to the University of Minnesota, there have been a number of outbreaks of E coli since 2003, leading to deaths, which have been linked to the consumption of tenderized beef in restaurants or in homes. There have also been recalls of tenderized meat products; in April 2012, some 2,000 pounds of tenderized and ground meat were recalled when samples were found to contain E coli. Fortunately, no-one became ill as a result, but there were still increased calls to label tenderized meat, thereby allowing consumers to make an informed decision when purchasing it.
Plans have developed over the past year and now the US Department of Agriculture has asked for comments on the proposed requirements to be submitted in the next 60 days. If all goes to plan, the new labels will be phased in between now and January 2016.
Food Safety News reports that there have been mixed reactions to the news that the proposal is likely to go ahead. Perhaps not surprisingly, the American Meat Institute believes that some of the provisions contained in the new regulations are incorrect. A spokesman expressed concern that consumers will see the new labeling, which will contain the words ‘mechanically tenderized,’ will lead consumers to suppose that it is a completely new product. However, the majority of organisations seem to welcome the news, particularly the proposal that proper cooking instructions be included on the label.
According to Consumer Reports, mechanically tenderized meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature that a non-tenderized sirloin steak should reach if it is to be medium rare is just 145 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to use a meat thermometer rather than relying on the color of the meat. Once cooked, the meat should be allowed to rest before being eaten, which allows any cool spots to reach the same temperature as the rest of the meat.
The American Meat Institute has issued a press release explaining its reasons for its negative reactions and requesting that other forms of labeling are considered. However, it currently looks as though the new labeling requirements will go ahead – and will raise awareness of the dangers of eating meat not cooked to the right temperature.