Mechanically Tenderized Meat May Mean Illness

5:17 PM, Jul 9, 2013   |    comments
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Undated -- Before you fire up the grill for some great summer meals, Consumer Reports has a caution. The beef you buy may have been tenderized by machines - and that process can introduce potentially deadly bacteria into your food.

A sizzling steak on the grill looks tempting - but it may have been run through a machine to make it tender. The trouble is that sharp blades or needles can drive dangerous bacteria - including E. coli -from the surface of the meat into the center, where they're harder to kill. That can increase health risks, especially for people who eat their meat rare or medium rare. 

Consumer Reports Andrea Rock said, "The Centers for Disease Control has reports of one death and 174 illnesses in the past ten years caused by mechanically tenderized beef that was contaminated with harmful E. coli bacteria."

You can't tell by looking if the beef has been run through a machine. Costco now labels any beef that has been "blade tenderized." This after an outbreak was linked to its meat sold in Canada last year. Rock said, "We don't know exactly how much meat in the U.S. is tenderized by machine. Consumers Union believes it should be labeled so that people know to cook it thoroughly."

The best way to be sure meat is thoroughly cooked is to use a meat thermometer and make sure the temperature reaches 160 degrees in the center. Steak and roasts you get in restaurants may be mechanically tenderized, too. So your safest bet is to order meat well done.

The federal government has proposed mandatory labeling for mechanically tenderized beef, but the new rules may not be finalized until sometime next year. You can get more information on mechanically tenderized meat on Consumer Reports website.

Consumer Reports/WFMY News 2

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