WASHINGTON – Mechanically tenderized beef products should be labeled to better protect consumers from foodborne illness, according to US Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

DeLauro, in a letter to US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, said many consumers don’t know that mechanically tenderized beef products should be prepared and cooked at a higher temperature similar to ground beef. The congresswoman said mechanically tenderized beef products should be prepared differently because they are not whole cuts of meat.

“In order to safely prepare these products, consumers must cook them to the appropriate temperature – a temperature which they cannot determine if they are unaware that the product is not a whole, intact cut of meat,” she said. DeLauro’s letter said the products should be labeled accurately to ensure consumers will prepare them properly.

“With over 50 million pounds of mechanically tenderized beef produced each month, these products reach a large number of American consumers,” DeLauro wrote. “But when consumers are unaware that these are non-intact products, the risk associated with these products is unnecessarily heightened.

“This was seen in the December 2009 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses across sixteen states associated with adulterated mechanically tenderized steaks. With proper awareness, provided in part by appropriate labeling, illnesses like those found in this outbreak may be prevented.”