Before you fire up the grill for some great summer meals, Consumer Reports has a caution. The beef you buy may have been tenderized by machines - and that process can introduce potentially deadly bacteria into your food.
A sizzling steak on the grill looks tempting - but it may have been run through a machine to make it tender. The trouble is that sharp blades or needles can drive dangerous bacteria - including E. coli - from the surface of the meat into the center, where they're harder to kill.
That can increase health risks, especially for people who eat their meat rare or medium rare.
"The Centers for Disease Control has reports of four deaths and 174 illnesses in the past ten years caused by mechanically tenderized beef that was contaminated with harmful E. coli bacteria," said Andrea Rock of Consumer Reports.
You can't tell by looking if the beef has been run through a machine. The meat on the left was mechanically tenderized. The piece on the right was not.
Costco now labels any beef that has been "blade tenderized." This after an outbreak was linked to its meat sold in Canada last year.
"We don't know exactly how much meat in the U.S. is tenderized by machine. Consumers Union believes it should be labeled so that people know to cook it thoroughly," said Rock.
The best way to be sure meat is thoroughly cooked is to use a meat thermometer and make sure the temperature reaches 160 degrees in the center.
"Also be aware that steak and roasts you get in restaurants may be mechanically tenderized, too," Rock said. "So your safest bet is to order meat well done."
The federal government is currently weighing whether to require mandatory labeling for mechanically tenderized meat.
The American Meat Institute, a trade association, had opposed labeling but says it may reconsider its position if new federal data suggest that labeling would be helpful.
You can read more from Consumer Reports here