Mechanically tenderized meat
a survey at the retail level
Background: In 2012, mechanically tenderized meat raised public health concern when an E.Coli 0157:H7 outbreak was linked to the tenderization process. It was discovered that the machinery pushed the E.Coli from the surface of contaminated meat products such as steaks and roasts, into the interior, where it was able to survive the cooking process. Concerns were raised by Lorraine McIntyre and the BCCDC about this issue, and their desire to improve their knowledge base in order to adequately assess the risk. Methods: Data was gathered via a survey conducted electronically and by telephone. Questions were asked to determine the proportion of retail establishments that use their own tenderizing equipment. Questions also asked about other industry practices such as current sanitization and labeling practices. Results: The results of this study were that 24% of surveyed establishments mechanically tenderize their meat products. Of these establishments, 33% have a label that states the meat has been tenderized mechanically and 17% provide cooking instructions on this label. An association was found between mechanically tenderizing meat and establishment type, which suggests that grocery stores are more likely to mechanically tenderize than other establishments, such as restaurants. On the other hand, no association was found between operator experience and their level of knowledge regarding the risks of mechanical tenderization. Conclusions: Overall, this study has demonstrated the likelihood is high that consumers purchase and consume beef that has been mechanically tenderized at the retail level. The results from this study can be used to aid public health officials in quantifying the risk of mechanical tenderization at a retail level and aid in the development and implementation of new legislation such as mandatory labeling of all mechanically tenderized meat.