NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– A process that makes your steaks easier to chew could also make your family sick.
We’re talking about blade tenderizing. It’s something that’s been going on for years, but as of about three weeks ago, the companies that do it now have to label the meat that’s gone through this process. Here’s what they do – before the meat goes to the store, they run a bunch of little blades or needles into it to help break down the muscle fibers to make the meat more tender and easier to chew.
Here’s the problem: Sometimes there are things like e coli or salmonella on the surface of the meat. For regular meat, the fire of the grill will kill those. But if the meat has been mechanically tenderized, all those little needles can transfer the pathogens from the surface of the meat and drive them into the middle.
The middle does not usually get hot enough to kill the bad stuff unless you like your steak well done. That’s why these new labels are so important. They not only identify which meats are blade tenderized, but they also tell you what to do to keep from getting sick.
“These labels are pretty new, actually, but consumers just really need to remember that they need to cook all meats – whether they are mechanically tenderized or not, to an internal temperature of 160. So now they just have another reminder on the food label,” said Amy Bragagnini, Yale-New Haven Hospital Dietician.
The CDC says there have been 6 outbreaks of food-borne illness in the past 15 years that can be directly linked to mechanical tenderization. One of them caused a big recall in 2009 when one person got a potentially fatal kidney disease.
If you listened carefully to our dietician from Yale she said you need to cook our steaks to 160 degrees interior temperature whether they’ve been tenderized or not, so that means no rare or medium rare steaks at all. She says even with regular meat, thorough cooking is the only way to make sure you don’t get sick.