The Dangerous Germ That Could Be Lurking in Your Deli Sandwich

woman eating sandwich

File this under "Gross." Next time you order a sandwich from the local deli -- even a super-healthy one, mind you -- you could be getting a nasty dose of germs on the side.

According to a new study out of Purdue University, one in ten delis contains Listeria bacteria, which can make everyone sick, but is especially dangerous for pregnant women.

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Here's what went down:

Purdue researchers went into 30 delis in national supermarket chains in three states. (So yeah, this wasn't a small, isolated study.) They swabbed surfaces in each deli that come into frequent contact with food, like counters and meat slicers, as well as some floors and drains.

The good news is that 30 percent of the delis never tested positive for L. monocytogenes and other Listeria species. The bad news? Thirty-five percent of delis tested positive in samples collected over six months.

According to Haley Oliver, the professor of food science who led the study, this probably isn't an isolated issue but, as she said in a press release, a "public health challenge."

The reason?

Apparently, while meat processing plants have plenty of regulations in place to stop the spread of bacteria, your local grocery store deli -- eh, not so much. Or in the words of Oliver, "It's kind of the Wild West."

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Yeah, yeah, germs are everywhere, but Listeria is a particularly noxious one. It can be found in a variety of soft cheeses and processed meats and can even grow in the cold temps of a refrigerator, which can be problematic.

Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get Listeriosis. Although it may present like a mild flu-like sickness, it can cause miscarriage in the first trimester. Fetuses exposed later on can experience a host of health issues including mental retardation, blindness, and paralysis. Definitely not what you were thinking when you ordered a turkey sandwich to go from your supermarket deli.

So what can you do to stay safe?

Get your deli meat to go and reheat it at home to steaming hot or 165 degrees -- especially if you're pregnant. Sounds weird, but according to the FDA, that should kill any lurking Listeria bacteria.

Does this make you re-think eating at your local deli?

 

Image © iStock.com/berekin

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