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Cold Cuts: Heat 'Em Before You Eat 'Em


So why are they called cold cuts?

You might be asking that very question after hearing that federal food safety experts think  we shouldn't be eating our cold cuts cold. Especially if you're over 50.

Luncheon meats like ham, turkey, salami and others can contain a dangerous bacteria called listeria. Even when refrigerated, the listeria in contaminated deli meats can multiply and grow.

Older Americans and pregnant women are at particular risk of getting a serious infection called listeriosis if they eat their cold cuts without heating them first, warns the Centers for Disease Control.

Each year, about 1,600 Americans get seriously ill from listeriosis and 260 die from it.

The CDC recommends that people over 50, and especially people over 65, should heat cold cuts to 165 degrees - "steaming hot," as the CDC puts it.

At least one expert, however, thinks an older adult's risk of getting food poisoning from a cold deli sandwich is pretty low.

Barbara Resnick, incoming president of the American Geriatrics Society and a professor of nursing at the University of Maryland, told USA Today that she's never seen an older patient with listeriosis.

"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 told the newspaper.

Still, to be on the safe side, store those deli meats properly.

Unopened, factory-sealed packages of deli meats should be stored in the refrigerator for no more than two weeks. Open packages or meat sliced at the deli counter should be kept for no more than five days, the CDC advises.

And look on the bright side: This is just one more reason to enjoy a piping hot pastrami on rye.

Photo credit: Shreveportbossier via

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