WASHINGTON – The American Meat Institute is recommending the US Department of Agriculture scrap its proposed labeling rule for mechanically tenderized (MT) meat products.

In comments to the agency, AMI noted the safety record of mechanically tenderized products, and the potential for consumer confusion by changing the product name to include the term “mechanically tenderized”.

“The existing labeling scheme for products that have been needle injected or blade tenderized, with appropriate qualifying statements or other label information, provides open and transparent information based on recognizable common and usual product names and should be kept,” AMI said in its comments.

In June, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service submitted proposed labeling requirements that included spelling out validated cooking methods, minimum internal temperature and resting time for mechanically tenderized beef. Additionally, labels on mechanically tenderized beef products would require product names to include the words “mechanically tenderized” as a descriptive designation on the label.

AMI cited FSIS risk assessments from 2002 and updated in 2010 that showed little difference in the safety of mechanically tenderized products compared to intact beef. Studies from Canada produced similar findings. The last foodborne illness outbreak associated with mechanically tenderized meat occurred in 2009. Since then, the industry has implemented significant changes to improve the safety of those products, AMI said.

“It is telling that there has not been a single foodborne illness outbreak in the US attributable to MT beef cuts in almost four years. That fact is directly related to the significant shift by the affected industry to more aggressively utilize a variety of effective interventions and processing practices when producing MT products,” the comments say.

AMI also argued that it was unnecessary to change the product name because adding the term "mechanically tenderized" offered no food safety benefit and could potentially confuse consumers.

“Conveying the fact that a product has been subject to mechanical tenderization and therefore consumers should prepare the product differently than if it is intact can be accomplished just as easily through means other than requiring that term’s inclusion in the product name. Meat and poultry labels are replete with useful and often necessary information that is found on a product’s labeling, either on the [Principal Display Panel] or elsewhere.”