Dr Lisa Ackerley explains why we need to know if our steak is Mechanically Tenderised meat
Mechanically tenderising meat is common and the process has been used by suppliers, restaurants and retailers for many years to improve the tenderness and flavour of meat. Basically this process pushes metal spikes into meat to break up the muscle and tenderise it.
Many people know that it is important to cook burgers all the way through because contamination present on the outside of meat will be mixed all the way through when the meat is minced. So whilst it is possible to eat a rare steak, as the bacteria on the contaminated outer surfaces will be killed during searing, bacteria in the centre of a burger will not be killed unless the internal temperature of the burger reaches 75 °C.
However, if meat is mechanically tenderised, this means that the process may result in pathogens such as E. coli O157 being pushed all the way through the meat from the external surfaces. It would therefore be unwise to eat these products rare.
In the USA and Canada there is considerable pressure being mounted on the USDA to make sure meats are labelled clearly if they are mechanically tenderised, so that people are aware of the potential risk and can cook the meats properly. This was because there have been recent recalls across the Atlantic following an outbreak of E.coli O157 associated with mechanically tenderized meat. The next question that has arisen in Canada and the USA is should consumers and purchasers of catering meat be advised that they are buying mechanically tenderized meat?
Also, be aware that if you poke anything into a solid piece of meat, such as a skewer, you may be pushing bacteria from the outside to the inside – so another reason to cook meat thoroughly on the barbeque!