WASHINGTON (AP) — Beef tenderized by machines before it is sold in grocery stores could soon carry labels warning customers to cook the meat thoroughly.

The Agriculture Department is proposing to require the new labels and cooking instructions for the meat, which is poked with needles or blades to increase tenderness.

That process can transfer pathogens from the outside of the cut of beef to the inside, making the meat less safe if it's eaten uncooked or not cooked enough. The labels would urge consumers to cook the meat to 145 degrees for three minutes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been five outbreaks of illness linked to mechanically tenderized beef reported since 2003.

The meat industry has opposed the labels, saying the meat is safe.

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