On May 21, 2014, Health Canada published an amendment to the Food and Drug Regulations in Canada Gazette Part II that requires any mechanically tenderized beef (MTB) sold in Canada to be labelled as such, including with safe cooking instructions. These regulations will come into force as of August 21, 2014.

In 2012, 18 cases of foodborne illness caused by Escherichia coli O157 (E. coli O157) were reported as part of a Canadian outbreak associated with contaminated beef. During the food safety investigation following the outbreak, five cases were considered to be likely associated with the consumption of beef that had been mechanically tenderized at the retail level.

Health Canada says beef that has been mechanically tenderized must have a sticker saying that, reports Metro Canada. Packaged steaks must also have cooking instructions that the meat must reach an internal temperature of 63 C and must be turned at least twice.

Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, said the cooking requirements are too complicated for most people and he wants mechanical tenderizing banned outright.

“What average Canadian having a beer and a steak is going to measure the temperature of the meat?” Cran asked. “This process has the potential to seriously sicken people or cause fatalities.”

Cran says irradiation of all meats is the best way to ensure meat is safe.

Health Canada received an application to irradiate ground beef, poultry, shrimp and prawns a decade ago, but a spokesman says the public was worried about the process.

Another application from the industry is under consideration.

Mark Klassen, director of technical services with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, supports irradiation but says mechanically tenderized beef is safe as long as it’s cooked properly.

“We’ve had very few cases of illness, even though mechanically tenderized beef has been in Canada in large quantities for a long time,” Klassen said. “It’s had a very good safety record.”

Sources: Health Canada