The Government of Canada recently published amendments to the Food
and Drug Regulations that will create new labelling
requirements for mechanically tenderized beef. Processors not
subject to the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 and
retailers who tenderize and repackage cuts of beef must develop
labels that identify beef that has been mechanically tenderized and
provide cooking instructions.
Mechanically tenderized beef (MTB), a defined term under the new
regulations, is uncooked, solid cut beef that is prepared by
piercing the meat to tenderize it or by injecting the meat (e.g.,
with a marinade).
Under the amendments, all MTB sold in Canada, including imported
products, must be labelled as such on the principal display panel.
Cooking instructions advising the consumer to, "Cook to a
minimum internal temperature of 63°C (145°F)," and in
the case of steak, the additional message, "Turn steak over at
least twice during cooking," must also be included. The new
regulations come into effect on August 21, 2014.
The new labelling requirements were developed in response to a
series of beef recalls in 2012 involving E. coli
contamination. Following investigation, Health Canada concluded
that MTB presented a fivefold increase in risk of contamination
compared to intact cuts of beef. If the meat's surface is
contaminated, the tenderizing process can transfer the
contamination from the surface to the centre, where the bacteria is
less likely to be killed during cooking. MTB cannot easily be
identified by visual inspection.
Impact on manufacturers
Since 2013, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has required
federally registered processors (those subject to the Meat
Inspection Regulations, 1990) to label MTB as mechanically
tenderized and to carry cooking instructions. Consequently,
these processors are likely to be minimally affected.
The changes are likely to have the most impact on non-federally
registered processors (those carrying on business solely within
provincial borders) as well as retailers, who may tenderize and
package the beef themselves. In the United States, 5% of
mechanically tenderized or enhanced beef products were packaged at
the retail level, but it is unknown whether this statistic is also
representative of practices in Canada.
Canada has identified fewer MTB recalls as a likely benefit of
the amendments. This is one of the clearest acknowledgements to
date by Canadian officials of the role that proper consumer food
preparation practices have in reducing the inherent risks
associated with meat products. Consumer education and awareness
efforts are also planned as part of Health Canada's intended
implementation strategy for the new requirements.
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
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