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:
- Which foods are most likely to be contaminated? See: Learn More about these Dangerous Pathogens that Pose Major Food Safety Risks
- What meats have the highest risk of contamination? See: How to Safely Shop in the Meat Section of Your Supermarket
- Here’s how to navigate the deli counter to keep you and your family from getting sick. See: Food Safety at the Deli Counter