Mechanically Tenderized Beef Risk

Before you fire up the grill for some great summer meals, Consumer Reports has a caution. The beef you buy may have been tenderized by machines-and that process can introduce potentially deadly bacteria into your food.

A sizzling steak on the grill looks tempting-but it may have been run through a machine to make it tender.

The trouble is that sharp blades or needles can drive dangerous bacteria-including E.coli-from the surface of the meat into the center, where they're harder to kill.

That can increase health risks, especially for people who eat their meat rare or medium rare.

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

You can't tell by looking if the beef has been run through a machine.

Costco no labels any beef that has been "blade tenderized." This after an outbreak was linked to its meat sold in Canada last year.

Rock says, "We don't know exactly how much meat in the U.S. is tenderized by machine. Consumer Union believes it should be labeled so that people know to cook it thoroughly."

The best way to be sure meat is thoroughly cooked is to use a meat thermometer and make sure the temperature reaches 160 degrees in the center.

Rock says, "Also be aware that steak and roasts you get in restaurants may be mechanically tenderized, too. So your safest bet is to order meat well done."

The federal government is currently weighing whether to require mandatory labeling for mechanically tenderized meat. The American Meat Institute, a trade association, had opposed labeling but says it may reconsider its position of new federal data suggest that labeling would be very helpful.

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