15 Things You Never Thought You Needed to Know About ... Lunchmeat
Few things are quite as American as brown-bagging it with
a bologna or ham and cheese lunchmeat sandwich. Indeed, refrigerated
processed meats, including deli meats, brought in about $17
billion in 2004, according to a report by Packaged Facts.
Sandwiches are the number 1 food item eaten by Americans,
according to food experts.
And when it comes to deli meats, there's something to suit
every taste: beerwurst, olive loaf, chicken roll, pastrami,
summer sausage, and the list goes on and on. But underneath
the glossy cellophane packages and fancy cold-cut names hide
some facts you need to know:
There are three types of lunchmeat: Whole cuts of meat
(roast beef, turkey breast), sectioned and formed products
(cooked hams), and processed products (bologna).
Most luncheon meats contain nitrites
and nitrates, which are preservatives, coloring and
flavoring additives that have been linked to cancer. Nitrates
can lead to the formation of nitrosamines, "which
have been identified as carcinogenic substances for quite
some time. Cancers of the esophagus, larynx, mouth, liver
and stomach seem to be associated with nitrosamines,"
says Alexander Hall, an assistant professor at the Canadian
College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.
Meat byproducts including lips, tripe, pork stomachs
and heart are sometimes used in processed lunchmeat products.
Many lunchmeats, including ham, roast beef and turkey,
contain added solutions of water, sodium and water or
water and spices. This will be listed on the label as
something like "Contains Up To 10% Added Moisture."
Once opened, packaged cold cuts will last three to five
days. Cold cuts sliced from the deli will last one to
The infamous SPAM luncheon meat is mostly pork shoulder,
ham and secret spices.
Many lunchmeats contain monosodium
glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer that, according
to Dr. Russell Blaylock, an author and neurosurgeon, has
been associated with sudden cardiac death, particularly
in athletes, and excitotoxic damage to brain neurons.
Sliced lunchmeats found in the refrigerator section
bring in $3 billion a year.
Refrigerated sliced lunchmeats are a $3-billion industry.
The Oscar Mayer brand name, now famous for its packaged
meat products, was developed in 1929.
Bologna deli meat is named after Bologna, Italy (where
the authentic "bologna," known as mortadella,
The first canned ham was sold by the Hormel Company
of Austin, Minnesota in 1926.
Head cheese, often found in the deli case with lunchmeats,
is not a type of cheese. It is a meat product made from
a mixture of boiled pork scraps (including the head),
pigs' feet and vinegar, which is blended, formed into
loafs and left alone to cool and jell.
Pimento loaf is made from chopped pork and beef with
sweet pickles and pimentos added.
In August 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
approved six viruses as a food additive to be sprayed
on cold cuts and packaged deli meats. The viruses are
intended to protect against the food-borne-bacteria Listeria
monocytogenes that is sometimes found on cold, packaged
Sandwiches, a $121-billion market, are the most popular
item eaten by Americans, according to food experts.
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