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Reactions Mixed to USDA’s New Tenderized Labeling Requirements

The award for the wittiest reaction to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan to label such products as “mechanically tenderized top sirloin” easily goes to the industry’s powerful American Meat Institute.  AMI said the proposed rule is like making Ford label “Robotically Assembled Ford Explorers.” It found the labeling changes on mechanically tenderized beef products “partially correct, but other provisions contained within it are mostly wrong.”

Government and consumer representatives were more positive about the labeling requirements that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) hopes to phase-in after a 60 comment period that begins with the proposals publication in the Federal Register.

“Ensuring that consumers have effective tools and information is important in helping them protect their families against foodborne illness,” said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety. “This proposed rule would enhance food safety by providing clear labeling of mechanically-tenderized beef products and outlining new cooking instructions so that consumers and restaurants can safely prepare these products.”

Labeling would be required for cuts of beef that go through a mechanical tenderization process using either needles or sharp blades in order to break up muscle fibers. Research and real world experience have proven that increasing tenderness by mechanical means runs the risk of pushing pathogens on the outside of the cut to the interior.

A half dozen outbreaks since 2003 are believed to have occurred because beef put through this process was not cooked to a high enough temperature for a long enough period of time.

Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said “We have been calling for a label for mechanically tenderized meat for years because consumers deserve to know what they’re putting in their carts and on their tables.”

“Putting a label on mechanically tenderized meat that also includes cooking instructions is a common sense step that will help protect consumers and their families from unnecessary and often serious illness,” added Gadhia.

She said Consumers Union has questions about the recommended cooking temperature, however, which is the same as that for intact steaks, and lower than that for beef patties.

“We are pleased that proposed rule has been released, and look forward to learning from USDA how they came to their cooking temperature recommendation,” she added.

“The valuable component in USDA’s new proposed rule is a requirement that these products include validated cooking instructions, “ said AMI’s Executive Vice President James H. Hodges. “We support this effort and think that safe handling labels on all products should be reviewed and improved given data showing that existing, mandatory labels have had little impact on consumer knowledge and behavior.”

“However, requiring that familiar products like ‘Sirloin Steak’ now be called ‘Mechanically Tenderized Sirloin Steak’ will lead consumers to believe that this product is new or different than those with which they are familiar. If, for example, Ford were suddenly forced to call an Explorer a ‘Robotically Assembled Ford Explorer,’ a buyer might think the car has been significantly changed, ” Hodges added.

“We would consider other labeling options that are validated through consumer research and shown to have a potentially meaningful impact on knowledge and behavior,” he continued. “For example, the product would still be called Sirloin Steak, but additional information on the package might read ‘Mechanically tenderized’ or ‘Contains enhancement solution with flavorings.’”

AMI says USDA’s data show that both types of products have excellent food safety records, but where there have been concerns, they have been almost exclusively linked to products that include an added solution.

USDA’s proposal inappropriately treats the two in identical fashion, AMI argues. In USDA’s proposed rule, the agency notes that 174 of 176 illnesses linked to tenderized products over the last decade have been linked to products that contained an added solution. During this same period, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 480 million foodborne illnesses occurred from all foods.

“It is troubling that USDA is taking a one size fits all approach to this diverse category of products,” Hodges said. “Both types of products deliver safe, tender and flavorful products to the consumer.”

The labels would encourage both home and restaurant cooks to exercise more care when cooking these mechanically tenderized beef products and urge the use a meat thermometer to ensure an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees, plus a three-minute rest period, or even 160 degrees.

Until the new rule is phased in, between now and Jan. 1, 2016, consumers will have to ask at the meat counter if cuts are mechanically tenderized and select intact cuts if they prefer meat rare or medium rare.

© Food Safety News
  • Emily Nelson

    “Wittiest”? Try “most illogical”. People aren’t going to get sick and possibly die because cars are not properly labeled. People WILL get sick and possibly die because steaks with E. coli on their interiors are not properly labeled.

  • Oginikwe

    ‘Contains enhancement solution with flavorings.’”

    Oh? Why would they have to do that? Since when?

  • johnmunsell

    I submit that consumers have a right to know if products have been mechanically tenderized, but that such labeling will have zero impact on consumer knowledge, and especially, on their handling of meat products. A few years ago in a speech, I asked a room full of people for a show of hands, asking how many of them had ever read the “Safe Handling Statement” which FSIS mandated many years ago. Not one hand was raised. This new mandate is a feel good PR gimmick, which will NOT lower the number of outbreaks due to tenderized meat, a number which has been microscopically low anyway.
    How large will a new label need to be, which not only states that the product has been mechanically tenderized, but includes validated cooking instructions? And if the meat cut is small, such as a tenderloin or sirloin steak, does FSIS or consumers object if a sizeable portion of the meat cut is obscured by new labels?
    John Munsell

  • http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/ Terry S. Singeltary Sr.

    The TSE prion disease survives ashing to 600 degrees celsius, that’s around
    1112 degrees farenheit.

    you cannot cook the CWD TSE prion disease out of meat.

    you can take the ash and mix it with saline and inject that ash into a
    mouse, and the mouse will go down with TSE.

    Prion Infected Meat-and-Bone Meal Is Still Infectious after Biodiesel
    Production as well.

    the TSE prion agent also survives Simulated Wastewater Treatment Processes.

    IN fact, you should also know that the CWD TSE Prion agent will survive in
    the environment for years, if not decades.

    you can bury it and it will not go away.

    CWD TSE agent is capable of infected your water table i.e. Detection of
    protease-resistant cervid prion protein in water from a CWD-endemic area.

    it’s not your ordinary pathogen you can just cook it out and be done with.
    that’s what’s so worrisome about Iatrogenic mode of transmission, a simple
    autoclave will not kill this TSE prion agent.

    New studies on the heat resistance of hamster-adapted scrapie agent:
    Threshold survival after ashing at 600°C suggests an inorganic template of
    replication

    The infectious agents responsible for transmissible spongiform
    encephalopathy (TSE) are notoriously resistant to most physical and chemical
    methods used for inactivating pathogens, including heat. It has long been
    recognized, for example, that boiling is ineffective and that higher
    temperatures are most efficient when combined with steam under pressure (i.e.,
    autoclaving). As a means of decontamination, dry heat is used only at the
    extremely high temperatures achieved during incineration, usually in excess of
    600°C. It has been assumed, without proof, that incineration totally inactivates
    the agents of TSE, whether of human or animal origin.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/97/7/3418.full

    Prion Infected Meat-and-Bone Meal Is Still Infectious after Biodiesel
    Production

    Histochemical analysis of hamster brains inoculated with the solid residue
    showed typical spongiform degeneration and vacuolation. Re-inoculation of these
    brains into a new cohort of hamsters led to onset of clinical scrapie symptoms
    within 75 days, suggesting that the specific infectivity of the prion protein
    was not changed during the biodiesel process. The biodiesel reaction cannot be
    considered a viable prion decontamination method for MBM, although we observed
    increased survival time of hamsters and reduced infectivity greater than 6 log
    orders in the solid MBM residue. Furthermore, results from our study compare for
    the first time prion detection by Western Blot versus an infectivity bioassay
    for analysis of biodiesel reaction products. We could show that biochemical
    analysis alone is insufficient for detection of prion infectivity after a
    biodiesel process.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2493038/

    Detection of protease-resistant cervid prion protein in water from a
    CWD-endemic area

    The data presented here demonstrate that sPMCA can detect low levels of
    PrPCWD in the environment, corroborate previous biological and experimental data
    suggesting long term persistence of prions in the environment2,3 and imply that
    PrPCWD accumulation over time may contribute to transmission of CWD in areas
    where it has been endemic for decades. This work demonstrates the utility of
    sPMCA to evaluate other environmental water sources for PrPCWD, including
    smaller bodies of water such as vernal pools and wallows, where large numbers of
    cervids congregate and into which prions from infected animals may be shed and
    concentrated to infectious levels.

    http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/prion/NicholsPRION3-3.pdf

    A Quantitative Assessment of the Amount of Prion Diverted to Category 1
    Materials and Wastewater During Processing

    Keywords:Abattoir;bovine spongiform encephalopathy;QRA;scrapie;TSE

    In this article the development and parameterization of a quantitative
    assessment is described that estimates the amount of TSE infectivity that is
    present in a whole animal carcass (bovine spongiform encephalopathy [BSE] for
    cattle and classical/atypical scrapie for sheep and lambs) and the amounts that
    subsequently fall to the floor during processing at facilities that handle
    specified risk material (SRM). BSE in cattle was found to contain the most oral
    doses, with a mean of 9864 BO ID50s (310, 38840) in a whole carcass compared to
    a mean of 1851 OO ID50s (600, 4070) and 614 OO ID50s (155, 1509) for a sheep
    infected with classical and atypical scrapie, respectively. Lambs contained the
    least infectivity with a mean of 251 OO ID50s (83, 548) for classical scrapie
    and 1 OO ID50s (0.2, 2) for atypical scrapie. The highest amounts of infectivity
    falling to the floor and entering the drains from slaughtering a whole carcass
    at SRM facilities were found to be from cattle infected with BSE at rendering
    and large incineration facilities with 7.4 BO ID50s (0.1, 29), intermediate
    plants and small incinerators with a mean of 4.5 BO ID50s (0.1, 18), and
    collection centers, 3.6 BO ID50s (0.1, 14). The lowest amounts entering drains
    are from lambs infected with classical and atypical scrapie at intermediate
    plants and atypical scrapie at collection centers with a mean of 3 × 10−7 OO
    ID50s (2 × 10−8, 1 × 10−6) per carcass. The results of this model provide key
    inputs for the model in the companion paper published here.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01922.x/abstract

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Bovine spongiform encephalopathy: the effect of oral exposure dose on
    attack rate and incubation period in cattle — an update 5 December 2012

    http://bse-atypical.blogspot.com/2012/12/bovine-spongiform-encephalopathy-effect.html

    Thursday, June 6, 2013

    BSE TSE PRION USDA FDA MAD COW FEED COMPLIANCE REPORT and NAI, OAI, and VAI
    ratings as at June 5, 2013

    http://madcowfeed.blogspot.com/2013/06/bse-tse-prion-usda-fda-mad-cow-feed.html

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    *** INTERPRETING RESULTS OF FSIS VERIFICATION SAMPLING OF DOMESTIC BEEF
    PRODUCT DERIVED FROM ADVANCED MEAT RECOVERY SYSTEMS (AMR01/FAMR01) FSIS Notice
    38-12

    http://madcowusda.blogspot.com/2013/06/interpreting-results-of-fsis.html

    Thursday, May 30, 2013

    *** World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has upgraded the United
    States’ risk classification for mad cow disease to “negligible” from
    “controlled”, and risk further exposing the globe to the TSE prion mad cow type
    disease

    U.S. gets top mad-cow rating from international group and risk further
    exposing the globe to the TSE prion mad cow type disease

    http://madcowusda.blogspot.com/2013/05/world-organization-for-animal-health.html

    http://transmissiblespongiformencephalopathy.blogspot.com/2013/05/statement-from-agriculture-secretary.html

    just saying…

    kind regards, terry