Are You Sure You’re Buying Safe Deli Meats?

The bug to worry about in deli meat, Listeria monocytogenes, may originally come from meat, but it can also live—and thrive—on plastic, on metal, and in water. And once it has taken up residence in a slicer or a meat or deli case, it can be almost impossible to clean out.


Listeria is especially dangerous if your immune system has been weakened—by, say, diabetes or chemotherapy. And it can cause miscarriage or stillbirth in pregnant women. To protect yourself:

Gloves. Make sure that the deli clerk snaps on a new pair after handling each chunk of meat or cheese.

Machinery. Make sure that sliced meat is placed on a fresh sheet of paper, and that the meat and paper are transferred to the scale. Buy cheese only from deli departments that use separate slicers for meat and cheese.

Packaging. Try prepackaged sliced meats, which are less likely to be contaminated.

Time. Don’t keep fresh-sliced deli meat for more than three days. Ditto for prepackaged deli meats once you open them.


Other relevant links:

5 Replies to “Are You Sure You’re Buying Safe Deli Meats?”

  1. snap on a fresh pair of gloves after handling each chunk of meat or cheese…..ok, but that’s a lot of latex/plastic going into our landfills. We have to start tackling problems holistically.

  2. I have heard that its dangerous for food handlers to wear latex gloves because latex proteins may migrate into the food thereby causing anaphylaxis or an allergic reaction in a latex protein allergic person. I wish the article had promoted non latex glove usage.

  3. even if you take precautions to avoid Listeria, there is no such thing as “safe” deli meats.. reports have shown extremely high risk of colorectal cancer in relation to processed meats such as deli meats, bacon, pepperoni, hot dogs, etc.. and that’s not to mention the sodium content, unhealthy fats, and animal protein.. so unless the deli meat is plant-based veggie slices, I would steer clear

    1. From the Nutrition Action Healthletter: In the most recent meta-analysis, published in 2011, looking at the results of nine studies, eating two ounces of processed meat a day was associated with an 18 percent increased risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, compared with those who didn’t eat processed meats.

      PLoS One. 2011; 6(6): e20456.

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