Cancer and Corned Beef? The WHO Report and the Jewish Deli

Last week the World Health Organization released a that linked consumption of red and processed meats to colon cancer. In the category of processed meats, the W.H.O. panel includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs — basically any meat that has been cooked through processes like curing and smoking for preservation or to enhance flavor.

And yes, the salted and cured meats that we love from our favorite Jewish delis make the list, too.

The report seemed to lack sufficient evidence to establish a concrete, causal relationship between processed meats and colorectal cancer. Nonetheless, it had people talking. Vegetarians, for example, seized the opportunity to have their “I told you so” moments on social media.

I caught up with Noah Bernamoff, the owner of Mile End Deli and Black Seed Bagels, who says he’s not at all worried that the W.H.O. report will negatively affect his business: “We take great care in sourcing 100% antibiotic and hormone-free animal proteins,” he said, “and we manufacture all of our deli meats in-house so we and our customers know precisely how our product is made.’

“Our deli sandwiches are also moderately sized so I think we make it easier for customers to eat delicious, traditional deli food with moderation.”

Bernamoff added that health concerns have already affected the Jewish-deli business in general, so “this additional bit of information likely will not further affect the current course of decline.”

So rest assured, pastrami lovers: Your favorite deli sandwiches won’t be scratched from the menu anytime soon.

Jean Hanks is the food intern at the Forward. Contact her at

Cancer and Corned Beef? The WHO Report and the Jewish Deli

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