March 3 is National Cold Cuts Day

Today is National Cold Cuts Day. Some look at a seemingly wacky holiday and say, “Why?” At Worldwide Weird Holidays, we say, “Why not?”

national cold cuts

The term “cold cuts” refers to any cooked meat that is thinly sliced, often eaten in a sandwich. According to the Today Food blog, there are three types:

Whole cuts are slices carved directly from chicken, turkey breast, corned beef or other precooked sources.

Formed or “restructured” products are made by combining meat chunks with sticky proteins and/or artificial additives, emulsifying them into a thick slurry. The blend is then forced into a mold or casing and cooked to bind it into its new shape.

Processed meats include cured, smoked and otherwise preserved foods like sausage and hot dogs as well as bologna and liverwurst. Manufacturing steps are similar to those of formed meats, with an important exception. These mixtures may include “by-products” such as lips, stomachs and hearts.

Note: Any lunch meat appended with the word “loaf”—olive loaf, ham loaf, pickle loaf—might warrant a peek at the list of ingredients. A word to the wise: if it calls itself a loaf but it isn’t bread, proceed with caution.

Want to know more? Watch a five-minute segment devoted to deli meats on Discovery Channel’s “How It’s Made” program. The script sounds suspiciously like advertising, but maybe the narrator just really, really loves lunch meat.

If you’d prefer more comprehensive reportage, prepare to be dazzled by Season 13, Episode 39 of “Modern Marvels,” a 45-minute tour de force titled, simply, Cold Cuts. (If you don’t subscribe to the History Channel, you’ll have to resort to tracking down pirated segments on YouTube. There are many.)

On a more serious note, we find it alarming that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which lengthened its name in 1992 but still refers to itself as the CDC) advises pregnant women, people over 65, and those with weakened immune systems to heat cold cuts to 165° F before eating them, due to the possible presence of Listeria, a hard-to-kill bacterium that grows even when refrigerated. Did you know that? We didn’t.

There have been many cases of infection due to seafood, hot dogs, raw unpasteurized milk and cheese, as well as this one caused by lunch meat and detailed in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on October 25, 2002:

A multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections with 46 culture-confirmed cases, seven deaths, and three stillbirths or miscarriages in eight states has been linked to eating sliceable turkey deli meat. Cases have been reported from Pennsylvania (14 cases), New York (11 in New York City and seven in other locations), New Jersey (five), Delaware (four), Maryland (two), Connecticut (one), Massachusetts (one), and Michigan (one).

Find general CDC information regarding Listeria here. and resources specifically for pregnant women here. No one is saying we can’t enjoy a hoagie but let’s be careful out there. Have a Happy National Cold Cuts Day!

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