Lunch meats—also known as cold cuts, luncheon meats, cooked meats, sliced meats, cold meats, and deli meats—are precooked or cured meats that are sliced and served cold or hot. They are typically served in sandwiches or on a tray. They can be purchased pre-sliced, usually in vacuum packs, or they can be sliced to order.
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In Commonwealth countries, luncheon meat specifically refers to products that can include mechanically reclaimed meat and offal. In these countries, the terms "cold meats", "cooked meats", "deli meats", or "sliced meats" are used.
In Guatemala, a lunch meat is a traditional dish eaten in November. It is eaten the first and second day of the month to celebrate El día de Todos los Santos (All Saints' Day) and El día de Todos los Difuntos (All Souls' Day). The two types are red and white. In Brazil, lunch meats and treats include olives, spam and mozzarella cheese.
Canned lunch meat came under investigation in Central Europe after an investigation into the Tulip Food Company, a Danish food processing company known worldwide for their specialization in canned meat. The investigation concluded that Tulip Food Company products do not contain 70% meat as expected (based on country standard). Rather, their products contained 18% pork meat, 39% mechanically separated chicken meat, and 18% mechanically separated pork meat.
Most pre-sliced lunch meats are higher in fat, nitrates, and sodium than those that are sliced to order, as a larger exposed surface requires stronger preservatives. As a result, processed meats may significantly contribute to incidence of heart disease and diabetes, even more so than red meat.
A prospective study following 448,568 people across Europe, showed a positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality caused by cardiovascular disease and cancer. Similarly, a prospective study in the US following half a million people flagged a similar association between death and increased processed meat consumption. The World Cancer Research Fund International guidelines on cancer prevention recommend avoiding all processed meats.