Deli Meats: Bad News, Good News

Posted in Deli Meats

Dear Brand Doctor:

I have read that deli meats – even the brands that are low in fat – are still unhealthy. Can you tell me why? And, since sandwiches are a staple in our household, can you offer up a brand that might actually be healthy?

Turkey is Tasty

Dear Turkey is Tasty,

We agree — turkey is tasty… and so are ham, roast beef and chicken! They’re even tastier when you know the meat in your sandwich is a healthy choice for you and your family.

Unfortunately, many deli meats and other processed meats (like hot dogs, bacon and sausages) stacked in the grocery deli and meat cases contain the dangerous chemical compound sodium nitrite. Used as a preservative, this stuff is a known carcinogen. That’s right, your tasty turkey sandwich may contain something that can cause cancer… EEK!

We bet you’re asking why food manufacturers would add a carcinogen to their deli meats?

Here’s the short answer — to make them look prettier and to make them last longer. Sodium nitrate is added to many processed meats to prevent discoloration so the meat will appear super-tasty and last longer on the shelf and in your fridge.

Fun Fact: This “preservative” is so dangerous that the USDA tried to ban it way back in the 70′s. Amazingly, the mighty meat industry fought the ban and won. We hate when that happens.

Reality Check

Since the ’70s, many studies suggest that cancer rates increased in adults due to an excessive consumption of processed meats. In fact, many physicians urge pregnant women to avoid processed meats altogether due to a link between sodium nitrites and brain tumors in infants.

And yet, meat manufacturers continue to market the stuff to kids who are at the greatest risk because their immune systems have a harder time processing these types of dangerous chemicals.

Frankly, we’d rather have our meat be a little funny looking and remain carcinogen-free. But hey, that’s just us!


Now for some good news about deli meats – your eBrandAid food sleuths have uncovered a healthy, nitrite-free brand that is available in most grocery stores. It’s Hormel Natural Choice and here’s why it’s worth checking out.

Hormel Natural Choice meats have no preservatives and no artificial colors or flavors. They’re also low in fat, contain zero trans fats and… drum roll please…they have no added junk like sodium nitrate or MSG! Plus, they offer plenty of choices like ham, turkey, and even roast beef.

Here’s the deal: Hormel uses an all-natural process that includes high water pressure technology (fancy!) to protect the meat against harmful bacteria. This process doesn’t compromise the taste or the nutritional value. And to boot, their turkey looks and tastes yummy too!

If you haven’t already raided your fridge and disposed of all the processed meats containing sodium nitrite, do it now…we’ll wait.

OK, now that your meat bin is carcinogen-free head to the grocery store and look for Hormel Natural Choice.

Need more options? Check out another eBrandAid favorite – Applegate Farms Deli Meat. And of course, freshly sliced lunch meats at the deli counter are your tastiest options. Just be sure to ask for the nitrite-free brands. You’ll pay a little more at the deli, but we think you’re worth it!

Remember, when you’re armed with a little eBrandAid know-how, you’re in control at the grocery store.

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In Our Opinion: The information contained in the eBrandAid e-newsletters is strictly based on the opinions of the eBrand Doctors. We have created a set of guidelines that we believe will help shoppers to better understand and decode food labels on products found in most grocery stores. Our mission is to help shoppers find the healthier brands that have the least amount of chemicals and other junk ingredients.

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