mechanical-tenderizerTwo victories this week on the food labeling front may help consumers make more informed decisions at the grocery store – although the changes won’t happen overnight.

Connecticut became the first state in the US to pass a bill requiring the labeling of food products containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.    Passed by an overwhelming majority in both houses, the bill (which is expected to be signed by the Governor) comes with a catch:  the new law will only be triggered into effect when 1) four other states pass similar legislation;  2) one of those states borders Connecticut; and 3) the population of the states totals at least 20 million people.

Consumers Union hailed the vote as “historic” in a press release, congratulating Connecticut for taking “huge step forward for consumers’ right to know.”     Given the requirements the bill has to meet before any CT consumer sees labeled food packages, perhaps the victory is best summed by a state activist who called it a “cautious but important first step.”

GMO labeling bills also currently have traction in Maine, Vermont and Washington states.

Meanwhile at the federal level, the USDA this week proposed a rule requiring  mechanically tenderized meat to be labeled and include proper cooking instructions.

Mechanically tenderized meat is run through a machine that punctures the muscle fibers with blades or needles to tenderize the meat. Unfortunately, the process also can drive bacteria like the deadly pathogen E. coli from the surface deep into the center of the meat, where they may not be killed by cooking if the meat is cooked rare. That can increase the risk of illness for people who eat that beef rare or medium rare.

According to the USDA, the CDC has tracked five outbreaks of foodborne illness attributable to mechanically tenderized meat over the last 10 years.

CU has long advocated for the labeling of mechanically tenderized meat so consumers and restaurants know to be more cautious with its cooking.   The proposed rule will soon be posted  in the Federal Register for a 60 day comment period.

Click here to learn more about mechanically tenderized meat from Consumer Reports.