CDC: Over 50? Heat cold cuts to 165 degrees to avoid listeria
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Updated 21h 59m ago
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been saying for at least 11 years now that people over 50 and especially those over 65 should avoid hot dogs, lunch meats, cold cuts and other deli meats unless they are reheated to 165 degrees — "steaming hot" in CDC's words. The government also says you shouldn't keep an open package of sliced deli meat more than five days, all to reduce the risk of infection from a bacteria called listeria. But some question whether the country's been paying attention.
In theory the CDC recommendation might be a useful educational point, but Barbara Resnick, incoming president of the American Geriatrics Society and a professor of nursing at the University of Maryland, knows of no one over that age who heats deli meats to that level and says she's never seen a case of listeriosis in a patient.
"Older adults eat lunch meat all the time, because it's convenient," says the author of Essentials of Clinical Geriatrics. "My own concern would be the quality-of-life issue. Do you want people to worry and not eat something they really enjoy?"
To her mind, 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.
But food-safety officials mean business about the warning. "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.