It will be at least another 3 years before information on proper handling and cooking is mandatory for tenderized beef products. The delayed is due to government agencies, including the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the White House Office of Management and Budget, not being able to come to an agreement before December 31st, 2014.
These new food labeling guidelines will address a growing concern over dangerous foodborne illness causing food pathogens that are produced in the processing and then pushed down into the meat as it is softened. And unless the meat is cooked thoroughly these pathogens could sicken the consumer.
According to the national Centers for Disease Control, mechanically tenderized beef caused at least five E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks between 2003 and 2009, causing 174 illnesses.
To better understand how the tenderizing process can push pathogens into the center of the meat, check out this video from Consumer Reports:
Failure to pass this new food labeling regulation this year has some consumer groups and even members of Congress frustrated.
In an interview with Food Safety News, Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America stated, “It’s extremely disappointing because consumers are going to be at risk from this product for much longer than they need to be. The delay was totally unnecessary.”
Even though Waldrop and other consumer advocacy groups will push President Obama to still implement these new labeling laws by 2016, it seems unlikely as the 2014 deadline has passed. Because labeling laws are implemented every 2 years, the earliest it will probably be effective is 2018.
Retailers have the option to voluntarily label their mechanically tenderized meat products. Costco has started labeling their blade tenderized meat, instructing consumers to cook to a core temperature of 160 degrees.