CFI Thanks White House for Saying Yes to Labels for Mechanically Tenderized Meat, Recognizes 2,000 consumers for signing labeling petition since Friday


June 6, 2013, Raleigh, NC -- The Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention today applauded the White House for approving USDA’s proposal to label mechanically tenderized meat. This long-awaited rule will identify which cuts of meat have been treated and that will greatly enhance consumer food protections. Last Friday (May 31), CFI, in conjunction with Take Part, the digital media arm of Participant Media, posted a petition asking signers to tell the White House that these mechanically tenderized cuts of meat need labels. Nearly 2,000 people have signed the petition in only five days.


“Mechanically tenderized steaks and roasts look no different than non-tenderized cuts of meat. Yet, for safety, they must be cooked longer or reach a higher temperature. USDA’s own studies show that the tenderization process pushes pathogens into the interior of the meat,” said Pat Buck, CFI’s Director of Outreach and Education. “CFI has advocated for labeling mechanically tenderized products since 2009. Today’s decision is an important public health move by the White House, and I hope USDA, along with the industry, moves quickly to develop appropriate labels for these products. Consumers have the right to complete food safety information. These new labels will help consumers identify higher- risk products, while learning what they need to do to offset that risk.


Thank you to the thousands of consumers who joined our effort and signed this petition.”


USDA estimates that a “preponderance” of beef steaks and roasts sold in the United States are mechanically tenderized. Mechanical tenderization uses needles or blades to pierce meat to make it tender. Often, the product is “enhanced” with water or a marinade. After the process is completed, the tiny holes or cuts disappear, and consumers cannot tell the difference between treated and not-treated meat. Meat processed in this way has been implicated in five E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the past 10 years, including a major incident last fall when 2.3 million pounds of Canadian meat products were recalled in the United States. In response, the Canadian government has recently insisted that all Canadian mechanically tenderized beef carry a label.


“In the 1990s the government wisely recommended that ground beef be cooked to 160˚to kill the pathogens that can make us sick,” said Barbara Kowalcyk, CFI’s CEO. “To be safe, tenderized steaks and roasts cannot be grilled and eaten medium rare -- like intact steaks and roasts can be. There is a real difference in risk. When it comes to feeding their families, consumers want accurate information about food safety. CFI applauds the White House and USDA for this proactive step forward. CFI believes that these labels will help prevent injury, illness and death from deadly foodborne diseases.”



Contact: Laura Trivers (301) 512-4442