As of August 21, 2014, mechanically tenderized beef sold in Canada must be labelled to identify that it has been subject to this processing, as well as to provide safe cooking instructions.
When performed at retail or otherwise prior to purchase, the mechanical tenderization of meat is not always obvious to the purchaser. When meat has been mechanically tenderized, bacteria from the surface of the cut may find its way into the center of the meat, increasing the risk of food-borne illness if not cooked properly. The new requirements, then, will inform the consumer about how the meat has been processed, and how to kill off those nasty – and potentially dangerous – bacteria.
The motivation for this new legislative requirement goes back to a 2012 XL Foods E. coli outbreak and recall, where 5 of the 18 incidents were thought to relate to beef tenderized at the retail level. Following a health risk assessment completed in 2013, Health Canada found a five-fold increase in the risk from mechanically tenderized beef, compared to intact beef.
Note that the regulation applies only to uncooked, solid cut beef (including veal), and not to other types of meat, or to ground beef. The regulation will apply to grocery retailers, butcher shops, meat processors and importers, but not to vendors like restaurants or cafeterias. Where the beef is not prepackaged (e.g. the grocery store meat counter), the cut must be identified as mechanically tenderized on in-store signage, or otherwise prior to the consumer making his or her selection.
The packaged beef must be labelled as “mechanically tenderized”, and include safe cooking instructions on the principal display panel. The safe cooking instructions must read: “Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 63°C (145°F)” and, for steaks, “Turn steak over at least twice during cooking”.
The amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations were published in Canada Gazette II on May 21, 2014. For those looking for further information and instruction, Health Canada’s guidance document can be found at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/legislation/guide-ld/mech-tenderized-beef-boeuf-attendris-meca-eng.php#fnb4.