LAKELAND, Fla. – For decades, industry has touted the importance of consumer education when it comes to handling preparing and storing red meat. Publix Super Markets has recently issued a voluntary advisory regarding the proper handling procedures for the defrosting of Publix Premium Certified Beef.

Publix is telling customers to remove the product from the original packaging and place the product in a microwave-safe plate for thawing. Failure to remove product from original packaging may cause microwave to spark, the company said.

"As part of our commitment to customer education, we wanted to remind customers of safe handling procedures for their purchase of fresh beef products," said Maria Brous, Publix director of media and community relations. "We received a couple of customer inquiries regarding the safety of thawing beef in its original packaging. We were able to determine that any Publix Premium Certified Beef products purchased between July and November 2010 should not be thawed in its original packaging. A change in supplier labels earlier this year has changed the composition of the labels. Upon notification of the potential label hazard, we discontinued the use of the labels and are sourcing a new supplier."

The advisory issued by the company is not a food-safety concern, but rather a safe-handling protocol.

USDA said consumers should remove food from packaging before defrosting. It is not recommended to use foam trays and/or plastic wraps because they are not heat stable at high temperatures, the agency added.

Publix is privately owned and operated by its 144,000 employees, with 2009 sales of $24.3 billion. It operates 1,031 stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.