It’s 2018 and South Africans are reeling from the shocking news of an outbreak of deadly listeria which has claimed the lives of at least 180 people. The source of the outbreak has been traced back to factories producing processed cold meats. Although even one death from listeriosis is one death too many perhaps something good could come out of this unfortunate crisis.
For me the best outcome would be that moms rethink what they are putting on their children’s sandwiches. We’re not even talking here about the risk of life-threatening bacteria which in any case we hope will never happen again. We’re talking about the nutritional value, or lack of it, in processed meats such as polony, as well as the health hazards lurking in the additives. When in 390BC, Hippocrates said: “Let food be your medicine…”, believe me, he was not talking about polony – nor was he talking boloney. Have you ever investigated what goes into processed meats such as polony and Vienna sausages? According to food technologists for the most part they consist of mixtures of off-cuts from all types of meat including organ meat and offal, all ground up finely with loads of fat holding it altogether. Then colourants, flavourants, loads of salt (sodium), nitrates and many other chemicals go in to make these foods look appetizing and palatable enough to consume. Price and convenience is what makes them popular, especially among feeding schemes for disadvantaged children, where a slice of pink polony gets slapped between two slices of
nutrition-deficient white bread (more non-food). Sliced–to-go, so to speak. This advantage of convenience, I’m sorry to say, does not outweigh the costs to health and longevity.
Firstly, a processed meat such as polony has had all nutritional value processed right out of it and does not carry within it the enzymes, vitamins and minerals required for its digestion. As such the body has to draw on its own reserves of nutrients and enzymes to metabolize it, thus depleting the immune system further. Not a good food for an already immune-depleted body of a starving or sick child or anyone else for that matter.
Secondly, these foods are loaded with chemicals that are horrendously detrimental to health. In 2015 the World Health Organisation classified processed meats as carcinogenic to humans. They have certainly been linked to stomach and colorectal cancer. This includes bacon, hot dog sausages, polony, salami, ham, and smoked or cured meat. Likely contributors to the problem are the added nitrates and excess salt or MSG and the smoking done to extend the shelf-life of such products. The World Cancer Research Fund in the UK recommends an outright avoidance of all processed meats, including biltong (sadly). Processed meats have also been linked to diabetes and heart failure.
So why are we still eating them and serving them to our trusting kids? Seems we are not doing our children any favours at all, apart from temporarily satisfying their hunger. The more processed a
food the less likely it will nourish you, and the more likely it will send you to an early grave. Relying on the convenience of a major industrial operation to prepare your food for you is seriously short-sighted. You may be paying less now in time and money but the future “bill” you will get cannot be paid with money.
The general recommendation here is to restrict your meat choices whenever possible to grass-fed and organic meats, cooked in their natural state. For school lunch boxes, sliced cooked meat, pilchards, peanut butter, egg or cheese sandwiches are healthier less processed options than polony.