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ConAgra expands recall of chicken and beef over metal fragments

The July 6 recall by ConAgra Foods was expanded Friday to include an additional 191,791 pounds–up from the original 3,806 pounds—for a total of 195,597 pounds of chicken and beef P.F. Chang’s brand entrée products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically metal.

recalled P.F. Changs chicken beef ConAgraThe problem was first discovered on July 1 by an employee at the Russellville, AR ConAgra facility who observed metal fragments while dispensing sugar from a supplier for sauce formulation during processing. No injuries have yet been associated with the metal fragment contamination.

The fragments range in size between 2 and 9 millimeters (mm) in diameter, and are curled, malleable and shiny. The metal fragments may be embedded in the sauce contained within the frozen entrée products.

The frozen chicken and beef entrée items were produced on various dates between May 31, 2016 and June 22, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Signature Spicy Chicken” with “Use By” date of 6/08/17 and case code 5006616500.

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Mongolian Style Beef” with “Use By” date of 6/17/17 and case code 5006617400.

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Mongolian Style Beef” with “Use By” date of 6/1/17 and case code 5006615800.

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Beef with Broccoli” with “Use By” date of 6/4/17 and case code 5006616100.

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Sweet & Sour Chicken” with “Use By” date of 6/3/17 and case code 5006616000.

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu General Chang’s Chicken” with “Use By” date of 6/3/17 and case code 5006616000.

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Garlic Chicken with Dan Dan Noodles” with “Use By” date of 6/8/17 and case code 5006616500.

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Grilled Chicken Teriyaki with Lo Mein Noodles” with “Use By” date of 6/10/17 and case code 5006616700.

• 22-oz. plastic bagged meal packages of “P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Signature Spicy Chicken” with “Use By” date of 5/26/17 and case code 5006615200.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 233” or “EST. P-115” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to distributors and retail locations nationwide.

The resulting sauce is a component in the frozen entrée products. On July 14, 2016, ConAgra Foods was notified by the supplier of an FDA recall involving multiple production lots of sugar due to potential metal contamination. The recall action involved additional lots of sugar potentially used in FSIS regulated products at ConAgra Foods, and resulted in this expansion of the initial recall action.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website.

Food Safety News

20 Years of Data Show Poultry, Fish, Beef Have Remained Leading Sources of Food-Related Outbreaks

Between 1998 and 2008, poultry, fish and beef were consistently responsible for the greatest proportion of foodborne illness outbreaks, according to a new government analysis.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the 13,405 food-related outbreaks reported during this time period, identifying 3,264 outbreaks that could be attributed to a specific food category. Fish and poultry remained responsible for the greatest share of these outbreaks over these 20 years — accounting for about 17 percent of outbreaks each — followed closely by beef, which was responsible for 14 percent of outbreaks.

Eggs, on the other hand, played an increasingly smaller role as outbreak sources – accounting for 6 percent of outbreaks in 1998-1999 and for just 2 percent in 2006-2008. This trend was largely due to a decrease in the amount of Salmonella outbreaks linked to eggs, according to the report authors.

Leafy greens became a more common outbreak source, responsible for 6 percent of outbreaks in 1998-1999 and 11 percent by 2008-2009. Dairy also grew as an outbreak source, rising from 4 percent in the beginning of the period studied to 6 percent by 2006-2008.

The researchers also looked at the leading pathogen-food combinations that caused outbreaks during the 20-year window, finding that histamine in fish was the most common outbreak source, followed by ciguatoxin in fish, Salmonella in poultry and norovirus in leafy vegetables.

“You see the same combinations of pathogens and foods repeatedly,” said Hannah Gould, epidemiologist in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and lead author of the report. “It’s good to keep tracking that and now to have a method to continue to look at changes over time,” Gould commented in an interview with Food Safety News.

The authors note that the number of outbreaks linked to these commodities should not be confused with the number of illnesses caused by these foods, as outbreaks result in varying numbers of illnesses.

While poultry was responsible for the largest share of illnesses (17 percent) between 1998 and 2008, leafy greens were the next greatest cause of illness, accounting for 13 percent of the 67,752 illnesses attributed to an outbreak food source.

The pathogen/commodity pairs responsible for the most outbreak-related illnesses were norovirus and leafy vegetables, which led to 4,011 illnesses of the 67,752 linked to a designated commodity category.

The team also looked at food preparation, finding that restaurants and delis accounted for the vast majority (68 percent) of the places where outbreak-linked foods were prepared. Private homes were the next most common place of preparation, at 9 percent, followed by catering or banquet facilities (7 percent).

“That’s something interesting that we talk about here more than we usually do,” said Gould, referring to the location data, which CDC doesn’t often report in its reviews of foodborne illness data.

Outbreaks after 2008

What about outbreaks that have occurred since 2008? Have these trends continued or have they changed in the past few years?

“Leafy greens and norovirus continues to be a problem and norovirus has been the number one cause of outbreaks in our data for years and years and years and has remained that way,” said Gould.

Gould also led an analysis of foodborne illness outbreaks that occurred between 2009 and 2010 — published in January of this year — which found that during that period, beef, dairy, fish, and poultry were associated with the largest number of foodborne disease outbreaks.

That report also showed that unpasteurized dairy products are the leading cause of dairy-related outbreaks, accounting for 81 percent of the outbreaks linked to dairy during that time period. Gould said the 1998-2008 report shows that the incidence of raw dairy-related outbreaks has been growing over this time.

“Outbreaks caused by dairy went up as well, and that seems to be caused by an increasing number of outbreaks due to unpasteurized milk,” she said.

The data used for this report comes from CDC’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, which was started by CDC in 1973 and went online in 1998. The authors chose 1998-2008 as their reporting period because the format of the database changed starting in 2008, when it became the National Outbreak Reporting System.

Although this new report may appear similar to one CDC released in January titled “Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by Using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998-2008,” the two are very different. The January report offers an estimation of total U.S. illnesses linked to various food sources. Though it is based on data from the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, the figures in that report are extrapolated based on national foodborne illness estimates, while this June report looked only at outbreaks reported to CDC.

The complete results of the 2998-2008 data analysis can be found in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Food Safety News

Ground Beef in School Lunches Meets Stricter Microbial Standards

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report published last week, the ground beef supplied to school lunches contains “significantly less” Salmonella contamination than products sold on the commercial market.

USDA’s Economic Research Service examined the impact of food-safety standards imposed by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) on suppliers of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Because ground beef is a staple of school menus and has suffered a number of product recalls in recent years, AMS pays particular attention to the food safety of ground beef. The report addresses the need for information regarding economic incentives for suppliers to improve the food safety of their products.

The researchers found that the food-safety performance of active suppliers exceeded the performance of inactive ones (meaning they sought approval to supply the NSLP but did not bid for contracts) and commercial market suppliers, “suggesting that AMS standards encourage superior food safety performance.”

AMS and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which regulates ground beef sold in general commerce, have different tolerance levels for microbial testing and testing frequency and for certain slaughter operation procedures.

In order to adhere to AMS’ strict tolerances for Salmonella and other potentially harmful pathogens, ground beef suppliers have to make costly investments in sanitation and cleaning. The companies recoup the costs through higher bid prices, but they still have to bid low enough to be selected by AMS.

The research found that inactive AMS suppliers exceeded FSIS’ tolerance for Salmonella, but that they were worse than all other suppliers on tests that were one-half to one-tenth the FSIS tolerance.

Some evidence suggests that AMS-approved suppliers consider their food-safety performance before bidding on contracts to supply the NSLP. Those suppliers who may not be confident that they would meet AMS food-safety standards and don’t bid then sell their ground beef in the commercial market to other buyers.

Food Safety News

Cargill Recalls Ground Beef From Canadian Walmarts for Possible E. Coli Contamination

Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling Your Fresh Market brand ground beef products from the marketplace due to possible E. coli O157 contamination, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced Monday.

The public is being advised not to consume the recalled products described below, which have been sold at Walmart stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Your Fresh Market Extra Lean Ground Beef Sirloin 475 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18363 7
Your Fresh Market Extra Lean Ground Beef 475 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18369 9
Your Fresh Market Medium Ground Beef 475 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18365 1
Your Fresh Market Lean Ground Beef 475 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 and 2014.NO.29 6 05388 18376 7
Your Fresh Market Extra Lean Ground Beef 900 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18372 9
Your Fresh Market Lean Ground Beef 900 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18378 1
Your Fresh Market Lean Ground Beef 1.6 kg Best Before 2014.NO.28 and 2014.NO.29 6 05388 18379 8

 

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis or live with permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

This recall was triggered by test results. CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The agency is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

For more information: Cargill Meat Solutions, Connie Tamoto, Communications Manager, Cargill, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Office: (204) 947-6187, Mobile: (204) 918-0344, [email protected]

Wal-Mart Canada Corp.: Alex Roberton, Director, Corporate Affairs & Social Media, (905) 821-2111, ext. 75402, [email protected]

Consumers and industry can contact CFIA by filling out the online feedback form.

Food Safety News

1,200 Pounds of Ground Beef Recalled Due to E. coli Risk

Ranchers Legacy Meat Co., of Vadnais Heights, Minn., is recalling 1,200 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coliO157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Products subject to the recall are packaged in plastic cryovac sealed packets, and contain various weights of ground beef.  All products produced on Nov. 19, 2014 are subject to recall.

All of the following have a Package Code (use by) 12/10/2014 and bear the establishment number “Est. 40264” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Individual products include:

  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Beef Patties 77/23
  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Chuck Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice Ground Beef 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice WD Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy RD Beef Patties 80/20
  • OTG Manufacturing Chuck/Brisket RD Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend Oval Beef Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy WD Chuck Blend Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Chuck Blend
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend Bulk Pack NAT Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend NAT Beef Patties

The product was discovered by FSIS inspection personnel during a routine inspection. Products testing positive on November 21, 2014 were held at the establishment.  The products being recalled were produced on the same day and equipment as the positive product.  Products were shipped to distributors for sales nationwide.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2–8 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. FSIS and the company have received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products.

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

Beef Meatballs Recalled in Canada for Possible Listeria Contamination

Nha Trang Deli is recalling Beef Balls from the Canadian marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Consumers should not eat the recalled product which was sold in 454 gram packages with Best Before Dates from 14-11-27 to 14-12-05 and a UPC code of 6 20937 00001 2

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, the infection can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

This recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

There have been no illnesses reported in association with the consumption of this product.

Food Safety News

Texas Company Recalls Ground Beef for Potential Metal Pieces

Sam Kane Beef Processors of Corpus Christi, TX, is recalling approximately 90,987 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FSIS announced Saturday.

The following products are subject to recall:

  • 3-lb. packages of “HEB Ground Chuck,” bearing the establishment number “337,” a production date of “09/12/14” and a use-by date of “10/02/14.”
  • 5-lb. packages of “HEB Ground Beef,” “73% LEAN 27% FAT,” bearing the establishment number “337,” a production date of “09/15/14” and a use-by date of “10/05/14.”
  • 10-lb. packages of “HEB Ground Beef,” “73% LEAN 27% FAT,” bearing the establishment number “337,” a production date of “09/18/14,” and a use-by date of “10/08/14.”
  • 10-lb. clear film packages of formed patties made from Sam Kane Beef Processors “Ground Chuck,” bearing the establishment number “337,” a production date of “9/09/14” and a use-by date of “9/29/14.”

The products were produced on the above dates (between Sept. 9, 2014, and Sept. 18, 2014, with sell-by dates between Sept. 29, 2014, and Oct. 8, 2014) and bear the establishment number “337” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. The products were shipped to retail outlets in Texas.

The problem was discovered after a retail location received consumer complaints involving ground beef and pieces of metal approximately 3 mm in size. Four separate consumer complaints were received, with one consumer reporting a chipped tooth. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness from consumption of these products should contact a healthcare provider.

Consumers with questions about the recall should contact Herb Meischen, senior vice president of sales and marketing, at (361) 241-5000, ext. 250.

This is the second recall involving products from this company in the past week. The previous recall, involving 2,633 pounds of ground beef chub product possibly contaminated with pieces of plastic, was announced Sept. 30.

Food Safety News