USDA issues final rule implementing new labeling requirements for mechanically tenderized beef.

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates the quality, safety, and labeling of meat and poultry products marketed in the United States.
  • On May 13, 2015, FSIS announced new labeling requirements for raw or partially cooked beef products that have been mechanically tenderized.  The new requirements will take effect in May 2016, one year after publication of the rule in the Federal Register.  Under the new requirements, raw or partially cooked beef products must bear labels stating that they have been mechanically, blade, or needle tenderized.  Cooking instructions also must appear on product labels to facilitate safe preparation by consumers.  According to FSIS, the need for new labeling requirements arises because the tenderizing of meat by mechanical means can introduce pathogens from the surface of the cut to the interior, making proper cooking very important.  Mechanically tenderized products are indistinguishable in appearance from intact product, which makes labeling the only way to convey the importance of safe preparation to consumers.
  • This regulatory development fits into the continuing conversation about the sufficiency of FSIS’ authority to assure the safety of the U.S. meat supply.  With this year’s reintroduction of a bill in Congress to grant FSIS mandatory recall authority over contaminated meat and poultry, it remains to be see what legislative or regulatory developments will be next in this space.