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Monsanto knocks back Bayer’s second takeover offer

Despite a promised US$ 1.5 billion reverse break-up fee, Monsanto has deemed Bayer’s revised acquisition bid as “insufficient to ensure deal certainty”.

Last week, German seed and crop protection group Bayer increased its offer for the U.S. company by 2.5% to US$ 125 per share.

“Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) today announced that its Board of Directors unanimously views Bayer AG’s revised proposal as financially inadequate and insufficient to ensure deal certainty,” Monsanto said in an announcement today.

“Monsanto remains open to continued and constructive conversations with Bayer and other parties to assess whether a transaction that the Board believes is in the best interest of Monsanto shareowners can be realized.

“There is no assurance that any transaction will be entered into or consummated, or on what terms.”

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CA Court Decision Will Place BPA Back on Harmful Chemicals List

A California court recently upheld findings that the plastic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is known to cause reproductive health problems.

In 2013, the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that it intended to add BPA to California’s Proposition 65 list of harmful chemicals and require companies to warn consumers when their products can expose them to BPA, but the American Chemistry Council (ACC) petitioned the court to prevent this.

BPA is a chemical used to make a variety of plastics, including food storage containers and bottles, eyeglass lenses, medical products and sports safety equipment. The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through diet, and the highest estimated daily intake of BPA occurs in infants and children.

The National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (NTP) has stated that there is “some concern” about the effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate glad in fetuses, infants and children at current exposures and “minimal concern” about effects on the mammary gland.

OEHHA decided to list BPA based on NTP’s conclusions that there is clear evidence of adverse developmental effects in laboratory animals at high levels of exposure to BPA.

In addition to preventing the listing, ACC also sought a judicial declaration that the proposed listing “is an abuse of discretion.”

The ruling, signed Dec. 18 by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley, stated that OEHHA “did not abuse its discretion in finding that NTP formally identified BPA as ‘causing reproductive toxicity’ within the meaning of the California definition” and will reinstate the decision to list BPA under the state’s Prop 65 consumer protection law.

The court also denied ACC’s request for a stay pending appeal.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Will Mechanically Tenderized Beef Labeling Be Pushed Back to 2018?

Long-planned efforts to place a label on mechanically tenderized beef may be delayed another two years — until 2018 — if they are not finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of this year.

For more than a decade, consumer groups and the U.S. federal government have been discussing the food safety concerns surrounding mechanically tenderized beef — steaks or other whole cuts that have been mechanically punctured with needles or knives to make them more tender for consumers. In the U.S., roughly one-quarter of whole beef cuts are mechanically tenderized.

Mechanical tenderization of beef poses health risks because it transfers potential pathogens from the surface of the meat down into the center. If the cuts are cooked rare or not thoroughly enough, the pathogens in the center may go on to sicken the consumer.

A number of foodborne illness outbreaks have been connected to mechanically tenderized beef in recent years, including the 2012 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Canada from XL Foods, which resulted in the largest beef recall in Canadian history. According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the U.S. have recently been attributed to mechanically tenderized beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.

The problem with tenderized beef is that without a label, it’s impossible to tell whether or not a cut of meat has been tenderized, said Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI). Anyone who might want to take extra precautions to avoid E. coli or other pathogens in their steak has no way to identify the additional risk without a label. That’s especially concerning for children, the elderly, or any other consumers with weaker immune systems, Buck said.

In a federal register notice from June 2013, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) estimated that E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef ranged between 587 and 4,657 each year. Labeling that beef could prevent an estimated 133 to 1,497 of those illnesses, the agency said, which would translate into roughly $ 1.5 million in economic benefits from avoided illnesses each year.

“When we’re trying to reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness, labeling mechanically tenderized beef is one quick fix that has an actual impact,” Buck said.

Following a push from the CFI and other consumer groups, in 2013 the USDA announced that it would require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. The rule, however, still has not been finalized, and it needs to be done by the end of 2014 in order to be implemented in 2016.

New labeling laws are implemented in two-year increments. Any new label rule made in 2013 or 2014 will be implemented Jan. 1, 2016.

If the mechanically tenderized beef label isn’t finalized until 2015, the label won’t make it to beef packages until 2018, nearly 20 years after consumer groups first brought up food safety concerns over the practice of mechanical tenderization.

The final rule has been drafted by the FSIS, and passed on to the USDA for departmental clearance. It’s still at that departmental review stage, waiting to be sent to the White House OMB for final approval.

In an email to Food Safety News, a spokesman for the USDA said that they anticipate sending it to OMB soon.

A coalition of consumer groups last met with the USDA in mid-October to discuss getting the label finalized before the end of the year. Now that a month has passed and the groups haven’t heard of any progress, they’re getting more worried that the rule won’t be finished in time, said Christopher Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

The CFI, the CFA and a number of other organizations are drafting a letter to the USDA to be sent Monday that will urge the agency to push through the rule before it’s delayed another two years.

In August 2014, Canada became the first country to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef. In May 2013, a Health Canada risk assessment found steaks that had been mechanically tenderized to pose fives times greater risk to consumer compared to intact steak.

Ideally, Buck said, the label would include three pieces of information beyond informing the consumer that the beef was mechanically tenderized:

  1. It must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F or cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F with a 3 minute rest time.
  2. The beef needs to be turned twice during cooking.
  3. If it’s frozen, it needs to be completely thawed before cooking.

“Without these instructions clearly written right on the package, these products can continue to sicken people, especially in the vulnerable age groups,” Buck said. “This is really, really important.”

Image of beef undergoing mechanical tenderization courtesy of Consumer Reports.

Food Safety News

Raw Milk Bill Brought Back in America’s Dairy State

Buoyed by the partial acquittal of Sauk County raw milk producer Vernon Hershberger, a Wisconsin state senator is going to try again to make it legal to sell unpasteurized milk and milk products in the Diary State.

West Bend Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman has dropped a bill into the Wisconsin Legislature that would allow limited sales of raw milk and raw milk products, which he claims are recommended by nutritionists and chiropractors for health benefits.

“Unfortunately, there is a law on the books where technically it’s still illegal to sell raw milk in the state of Wisconsin,” says Grothman. His bill would permit the sale of unpasteurized milk from farms registered with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The same farms would sell buttermilk, kefir, yogurt, ice cream, butter and cheese made with raw milk.

Grothman’s bill, which won’t go to a public hearing until Fall, would allow on the farm sales directly to consumers, but would continue to ban retail sales in stores or farmer’s markets.

A dairy farm that sells raw milk directly to consumers would risk losing their license. The Grothman bill sets up an exemption to that possibility by allowing those interested in selling raw milk to register with DATCP.

The Senator claims farms that register will be under the same requirements, as they would normally have for producing grade A milk regarding cleanliness, temperature, and other safety requirements.

The bill also sets up criteria for clean containers, proper labeling, a posted sign, and compliance with all state rules. As Wisconsin is the nation’s largest dairy state, Grothman will face strong opposition by the multi-billion dollar pasteurized milk industry, which claims raw milk’s frequent outbreaks gives their product a bad name.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition say it is impossible to make raw milk safe. The Wisconsin Legislature passed a raw milk bill in 2010, but former Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it. Attempts by Grothman and others since then to permit raw milk have since failed to go anywhere. A task force appointed by Doyle outlined what it would take to make raw milk both safe and legal in Wisconsin, but Grothman has ignored those stiffer requirements and other raw milk advocates.

Scott Walker, the current governor, has indicated he could sign a raw milk bill with sufficient safe guards in it. Unlike most state legislatures in the Midwest, the Wisconsin Legislature meets periodically throughout the year.

Food Safety News

Organic is back in the spotlight

After ceding the spotlight to local for the past few years, organic may once again be having a moment.

Even McDonald’s is looking at organic for some products in certain markets, president and CEO Don Thompson told investors in an earnings call earlier this week.

In the grocery world, Aldi’s U.K. stores have begun stocking organic produce that the retailer says costs 25% less than such products elsewhere, the Daily Mail reports. While Walmart similarly has made a play for lower cost organic items by carrying Wild Oats products, Aldi’s focus on produce gives it an even greater opportunity to reach new consumers: Studies have found that produce tends to be the main gateway for consumers purchasing organic for the first time.

Here in the U.S., Salt Lake City-based Associated Food Stores has seen dramatic increases in demand for organic produce, particularly in certain categories, Leigh Vaughn, senior category manager for produce, told participants in Supermarket News’ recent webinar “Managing Change and Building Relationships in Grocery Supply Chain: Associated Food Stores and Robinson Fresh.”

“We’re actually working now with some of our suppliers to discontinue some conventional items and carry them only as organics, in the greens area and things like that, because they are just exploding. We’re experiencing 27% to 30% increases in just our organic kale alone,” said Vaughn.

The webinar presenters cited a couple of factors for renewed interest in organic. First, the improving economy means consumers are spending more and thus are more likely to purchase pricier organic items.

There are also simply more organic products available, and customers have more options of where to buy such items.


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At the same time, organic may face supply challenges down the road. The Organic Trade Association has said that there needs to be more acreage devoted to organic crops in order to meet demand.

During the retail tour at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Convention & Expo in Anaheim, Calif., earlier this month, representatives from a Costco store in Irvine said it was sometimes difficult to get organic produce at the volume they need. Despite that obstacle, organic is a growing category for the store.

Whatever the location or store type, it’s clear retailers of all stripes should be taking a closer look at organics.

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews

Supermarket News

US (CA): Heat pushes back start of pomegranate season

Though many growers in California were anticipating a quick start to the pomegranate season, hot, dry conditions have pushed back harvesting. Picking is now expected to begin next week.

“People were saying this season could be early, but right now it looks like it could be just on time or even a little delayed,” said David Anthony of Ruby Fresh Pomegranates. “We expect to start Monday, October 6, but the season remains delayed due to a severe drought and high heat.” Warm weather has been a roadblock because pomegranates require cool night temperatures to achieve the right colour. Pomegranates don’t gain colour once they’ve been picked, so growers are hesitant to harvest their crop until the fruit achieves just the right colour. Dry conditions have also delayed picking because of the toll they’ve taken on trees.

“A tree goes into survival mode when it’s stressed,” said Anthony. “The drought has been stressing the trees, so the combination of that and the heat has slowed down the ability of fruit to colour and gain size.” With no fruit out of California yet, demand is high in anticipation of supplies that will come later this month.

“There’s a lot of demand right now,” explained Anthony. “So the market will be strong when the season begins, then them market will stabilize when there are good supplies during the second half of October.”

For more information:

David Anthony

Ruby Fresh Pomegranates

+1 559 933 0340

FreshPlaza.com

Tarheel 2014 sweet potato harvest will be back to normal

BENSON, NC — North Carolina’s sweet potato harvest, still in full swing at mid-September, is back to normal, and none too soon. After two years in a row of below-average acreage planted due to weather, the 2014 crop is growing on 66,000 acres. That’s the USDA estimate cited by Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, here. The feds predict that 65,000 of those acres will be harvested, equal to almost half of the nation’s crop.NCSPROUNDUP10614-VICK-PROCESweet potatoes (Suss Kartoffeln) bound for the German market are processed and packed at Vick Family Farm near Wilson. North Carolina is the leading U.S. grower of sweet potatoes, and 20 percent are exported overseas, mainly to Europe.

In 2013, wet weather hampered planting of the seedling sprouts. “We had a rain of biblical proportions in North Carolina,” Johnson-Langdon explained. “That held the crop down to about 54,000 acres planted. This year, we’re up 22 percent in estimated acreage planted, and we’ve had an uneventful growing season, good weather generally. We should have plenty of sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving this year.”

The short crop last year resulted in some growers in late August running out of supplies of stored 2013 sweet potatoes before they could harvest and cure their 2014 crop. Curing takes five to 10 days, and then they are stored at 55-60 degrees for up to a year. The favorite variety of sweet potato grown in North Carolina is the Covington, named after a North Carolina State University researcher and industry leader who developed the variety. Johnson-Langdon estimated that 90 percent of the sweet potatoes grown in the state are Covingtons.

The North Carolina Agribusiness Council estimated on Sept. 14 that about 27 percent of the sweet potato crop in the state had been harvested. Planting hit a high in 2011 in North Carolina, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of 134,000 acres planted nationwide, 65,000 were in the Tarheel state. Yields were 208 hundredweight bags per acre, nationwide and 200 hundredweight in North Carolina. Acreage planted dropped in 2012 to 130,500 nationwide and 63,000 in North Carolina, with yields at 209 hundredweight nationwide and 200 hundredweight in North Carolina.

Joey Hocutt, produce grower at Triple J Produce in Sims, NC, expected to continue harvesting his 1,300 acres of sweet potatoes, including 150 organic acres, until Nov. 18. The weather had been good, he said, and he had 55 workers for the harvest under the federal H2A worker program.

At Vick Family Farms in Wilson, NC, Jerome Vick, who first harvested sweet potatoes in 1985, said Sept. 19 his harvest was “back to normal” after a wet 2013 held down plantings. “We use the same workers to do tobacco and then sweet potatoes, but this year tobacco is a little late and sweet potatoes are a little early, so we’re short on labor. Other than that, we’re seeing good yields and having a good harvest, now about 25 percent complete,” he said.

Charlotte D. Vick, partner and director of sales and marketing, said Vick Family Farms had expanded its sweet potato fields to more than 1,000 acres and is building a new 25,000-square-foot curing and storage facility that can hold 180,000 bushels of sweet potatoes to accommodate demand from the new dehydration facilities nearby.

Ham Produce Co. in Snow Hill, one of the larger U.S. sweet potato growers, is expanding production by 50 percent this year, to 13,000 acres. With its dehydration facility in Farmville (see “Two new sweet potato dehydration facilities to open in North Carolina,” The Produce News, Sept. 22, 2014, page 2) now open, Stacy Ham, vice president, said, “Here we go again, expanding our sweet potato production by 50 percent again this year.” Ham Produce and its 65 full-time, year-round workers started harvesting its crop in late August and will continue into November.

Johnson-Langdon pointed out that value-added processing has resulted in new sweet potato products that have extended shelf life and increased sales. She rattled off examples: microwaveable sweet potatoes and sweet potato chips and fries; vodka and beer; pancake, pie and muffin mix; baby food; juice drinks; and crackers. About 20 percent of the North Carolina sweet potato crop is exported via container ships on a 10-14 day journey to 19 countries, mostly in Europe.

“With the new dehydration plants for sweet potatoes opening in the state in the coming year, our 300 sweet potato growers will be able to sell all their crop, including those too large or small for retail, and new markets will open for pet food, animal feed and juice drinks,” she noted. The dehydration plants will use the 25 percent to 30 percent of the sweet potatoes left in the field and not harvested now, she added.

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