Canada’s requirement that all mechanically tenderized beef (MTB) be labeled as such and include instructions for safe cooking came into effect on Aug. 21. The goal of identifying MTB and including safe cooking instructions on the label is to provide Canadians with the knowledge of what they are buying and how to cook it properly in order to prevent foodborne illnesses. Mechanical tenderization of meat is a practice that has been used by processors, food services and retailers for many years to improve the tenderness and flavor of beef. The process of mechanically tenderizing meat involves using instruments such as needles or blades to break down, penetrate or pierce its surface and disrupt the muscle fibers, or injecting it with a marinade or tenderizing solution. The internal temperature of a steak or other solid cut of beef is not a significant concern in most cases since any harmful bacteria that may be present would normally be on the surface of the meat and would be “inactivated” during cooking. But, with mechanical tenderization, there is a potential for bacteria to be transferred from the surface to the center of the meat. On appearance alone, consumers won’t necessarily know that a product has been mechanically tenderized and therefore know about the heightened risk of pathogens. In May 2013, Health Canada completed a health risk assessment focused on E. coli O157 in MTB and found a five-fold increase in risk when compared to intact cuts of beef. The labeling requirements apply to all industry sectors selling fresh or frozen MTB to other industry members or consumers in an uncooked, solid cut form. It does not apply to ground beef or any uncooked beef that has been subject to a comminution process such as grinding, chopping, flaking, mincing, fine texturing and/or mechanical separation. In 2012, 18 cases of foodborne illness caused by E. coli O157 were reported as part of a Canadian outbreak associated with contaminated beef. During the food safety investigation following the outbreak, five cases were considered to be likely associated with the consumption of beef that had been mechanically tenderized at the retail level.