The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service has delayed mandatory labelling for mechanically tenderised meat until at least 2018.
The labelling rule, which was initially proposed in mid-2013, cannot take effect before 2018 as it was not finalised by USDA and White House Office of Management and Budget as expected by 31 December 2014.
Commenting on the delay, Consumer Federation of America Food Policy Institute director Christopher Waldrop was quoted by Food Safety News as saying: "It's extremely disappointing because consumers are going to be at risk from this product for much longer than they need to be.
"The delay was totally unnecessary."
When issued, the regulation will require food manufacturers to display specific cooking instructions on the packaging for meat products.
The tenderisation process softens the meat with tools and devices that are known to cultivate pathogens that can lead to foodborne illnesses, which can be prevented by cooking meat for long enough.
According to USA Today, at least five outbreaks in the US have recently been associated with the consumption of mechanically tenderised beef, resulting in 174 confirmed illnesses and four deaths.
Figures presented by a 2008 USDA study indicated that around 50 million pounds of mechanically tenderised beef products are sold every month.
Image: The tenderisation process softens the meat with tools and devices that are known to cultivate pathogens that can lead to foodborne illness. Photo: courtesy of Mister GC / freedigitalphotos.net.