Updated: July 15, 2013 6:51PM
WASHINGTON — Beef tenderized by machines before it is sold in grocery stores could soon carry labels warning customers to cook the meat thoroughly.
The Agriculture Department proposed to require the new package labels and cooking instructions on the meat, which is poked with needles or blades to increase tenderness.
That process can transfer pathogens from the outside of the cut of beef to the inside, making the meat less safe if it’s eaten uncooked or not cooked enough. The labels would urge consumers to cook the meat to 145 degrees for three minutes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been five outbreaks of illness linked to mechanically tenderized beef reported since 2003.
The meat industry criticized the proposed rule, arguing that calling meats “mechanically tenderized” could be misleading in making consumers think the meat is something different than what they already know.
“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,” said James. H. Hodges, of the American Meat Institute.