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Mechanically tenderized beef requires labelling, cooking instructions

By Amanda Brodhagen,

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced new labelling requirements for mechanically tenderized beef (MTB). The government says that labels will help consumers know when they are buying MTB products and how to cook them properly.

The mandatory labelling requirements came into effect today [August 21, 2014]. The government says that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will ensure that MTB products meet the improved rules. Until now, labelling MTB products was only a voluntary practice.

"Without clear labels, it is difficult for consumers to know which beef products have been mechanically tenderized,” Ambrose said in a release. “This regulatory change is another step in our government's commitment to make certain that consumers have the food safety information they need."

All MTB products sold in Canada must be clearly labelled as MTB and provide cooking instructions. Specifically, the new labels aim to highlight the importance of cooking MTB products to a minimum internal temperature of 63°C (145°F). Additionally, cooking instructions must say that MTB steaks should be turned over at least twice on the grill to kill any harmful bacterial that can cause illness. The majority of MTB products are steaks and roasts.

The process of mechanical tenderization of meat is a common practice in the food industry. Needles and / or blades are used to break down muscle fibers in the meat, which improves tenderness and flavour - both are desirable characteristics of beef. The label change applies to the entire value-chain, including grocery retailers, butcher shops, meat processors, and importers of MTB.

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