CDC Advises Older Consumers to Heat Deli Meats Amid Salmonella Outbreaks

Federal officials said two outbreaks of the bacterial infection had sickened at least 36 people across 17 states since May 2021.

Published Aug 25, 2021

Image Via Didriks/Flickr

Two outbreaks of salmonella linked to Italian-style deli meats have left dozens of people sick across 17 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Aug. 24, 2021.

In an announcement on its website, the CDC said consumers who are especially vulnerable from salmonella infection, including those aged over 65 and people with weakened immune systems, should heat all deli meats to 165 degrees, as a precaution, for the time being. The agency wrote:

CDC and partners are investigating two Salmonella outbreaks linked to Italian-style meats. People in both outbreaks report eating salami, prosciutto, and other meats that can be found in antipasto or charcuterie assortments before getting sick. Investigators are working to identify specific contaminated products and determine if the two outbreaks are linked to the same food source.

... Until we identify which Italian-style meats are making people sick, heat all Italian-style meats to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot before eating if you are at higher risk. Italian-style meats include salami, prosciutto, and other meats that can often be found in antipasto or charcuterie assortments. Heating food to a high enough temperature helps kill germs like Salmonella.

The first strain, Salmonella tymphimurium, sickened 23 people in 14 states, aged between four and 91 years, between May 30 and July 27, 2021. Nine individuals are known to have been hospitalized as a result of the bacterial infection.

The second strain, Salmonella infantis, sickened 13 people in seven states, aged between one and 74 years, between May 9 and June 24. Three are known to have been hospitalized.

Deli meats were pinpointed as the likely source of the illnesses after state and local health officials interviewed patients affected by both strains, and discovered that the proportion who had eaten the products in the week before they got sick was more than double that in the general population.  

In all, the CDC said it was aware of 36 cases in 17 states, but cautioned that the true number of infections associated with the two outbreaks was likely much higher, because many people with salmonella infections recover within days, without medical care or testing. The following graphic shows a breakdown of the states where infections from both outbreaks had been recorded so far:

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.