By Dr. Maria Simbra, KDKA-TV Health Editor
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When it comes to lunch meat, do you heat it up?
If it’s not steaming hot, it could be a source for a bacterial infection called listeriosis.
Eighty-five percent of cases are linked to cold cuts, deli meat and soft cheeses like feta and brie. Each year, 1600 Americans get this infection and 260 of them die.
“We typically get six or seven cases reported to us here in Allegheny County,” says Dr. Ron Voorhees. “Fever, maybe some chills, maybe a stiff neck. It can cause miscarriage, still birth, premature delivery of the infant.”
When lunch meats are processed and packaged, they’ve been cooked and the bacteria have been killed. But once the package is opened, bacteria can get in.
You can’t see, taste, or smell it and the bacteria listeria can grow even at refrigerated temperatures.
So to get to the recommended 165 degrees to kill this threat, what does it take? With your average stack of salami, after 30 seconds in the microwave, it’s just above 150 degrees. With 60 seconds more — nearly 180 degrees.
The vast majority of people can eat lunch meats and soft cheeses without any problem, but people over 65 and pregnant women are at risk, and these groups will want to take the extra precautions.
“It’s people with immune suppression,” says Dr. Voorhees, “When someone is pregnant, their immune systems are not as alert as when not pregnant.”
And in general, throw out any opened lunch meat after five days.