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USDA Requires Labeling of Mechanically Tenderized Meat

Statement of CSPI Senior Food Safety Attorney Sarah Klein

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USDA's new requirement that the meat industry label cuts of meat that have been needle- or blade-tenderized is a common sense remedy that can protect consumers. This little-known but widespread industry practice can push surface pathogens to the interior of the meat, making those bacteria much harder to kill unless a consumer cooks the meat to well done. Consumers and restaurants should exercise more care when cooking these products and use a meat thermometer to ensure an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees, plus a three-minute rest period, or even 160 degrees.

USDA should accelerate the requirement and make labels mandatory by January 2014. In the meantime, consumers should ask at the meat counter if the products they are buying have been mechanically tenderized and select intact cuts if they prefer meat rare or medium rare.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).