Can That Deli Sandwich Make You Sick?

Friday, 06 May 2011 09:06 AM

Did you know that if you are older than 50 you should not be eating cold cuts and other deli meats unless you’ve reheated them to 165 degrees first?

Government health officials have been offering this advice for 11 years to reduce the risk of infection from the bacteria listeria, which causes an uncommon but possibly fatal illness called listeriosis, USA Today reports.

"When it comes to food safety, we're serious: People at risk for listeriosis should not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot. Thoroughly reheating food can help kill any bacteria that might be present. If you cannot reheat these foods, do not eat them," says Neil Gaffney, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service.

It's not just the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling attention to the issue. Listeriosis and cold cuts were ranked just last week as the third worst combination of a food and a pathogen in terms of the burden they place on public health, costing $1.1 billion a year in medical costs and lost work days, according to a study by the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogen Institute, USA Today reports.

However, not everyone is on board with the warning. Some health experts say excess sodium in the meats is a bigger health concern, and that older people have been enjoying their sandwiches for years and wouldn’t want to change their eating habits late in life.

"Older adults eat lunch meat all the time, because it's convenient," says Barbara Resnick, incoming president of the American Geriatrics Society and a professor of nursing at the University of Maryland.

She says she knows of no one older than 50 who heats deli meats to that level and says she's never seen a case of listeriosis in a patient. "My own concern would be the quality-of-life issue. Do you want people to worry and not eat something they really enjoy?"

She believes deli meats' sodium content is the bigger risk.

"I have patients that are 103, and they're probably eating lunch meat every day. But they're survivors — lunch meat's not going to get them," she says.

To read the complete USA Today story, Go Here Now.

© HealthDay

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Friday, 06 May 2011 09:06 AM
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