What does “delicatessen” actually mean? After deli meat recall, learn the name of what caused the risk.

On Tuesday, a division of Tyson Foods Inc recalled 380,000 pounds of deli meat, saying that it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The meat was used in sandwiches sold at Wal-Mart stores. Luckily, there have been no reported illnesses.

Unfortunately, we often hear about salmonella. (Read more about salmonella here.) How does it differ from listeria?

Listeria is a hardy bacterium that can cause food poisoning. It’s commonly found in soil, stream water, sewage, plants, and food.

Listeria causeslisteriosis. This infection is rare but potentially lethal. Listeriosis sometimes manifests as meningitis, “inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain or spinal cord.” It can also affect newborns because it has the capacity to penetrate the placenta.

So why is deli meat at risk? Listeria has been found in uncooked meats and processed foods. Even though deli meat is not raw, contamination can occur before the meat has been cooked. Meat processing plants usually follow strict sanitation regulations to prevent listeria contamination.

Let’s veer slightly off topic for a moment and consider something more pleasant: the word “deli.”

The word was shortened from delicatessen in 1954. While we usually don’t associate delis or deli meat with fancy or gourmet food, the term delicatessen means “delicacies” or “fine food.”

Though it is a German borrowing, ultimately delicatessen derives from the Latin adjective delicauts, which means “giving pleasure, delightful, pleasing,” and also “overly-luxurious, spoiled” and “fragile.”

Unlike in the U.S., European delicatessens are places to shop for the most top-quality and expensive foods. Another name for it is feinkost, which means “fine food” or “Good Eats.” Take-out food is not sold in European counterparts.

You’re unlikely to find hot dogs at delis, but the story of how this favorite food got its name is pretty wild. Find out here. And the origin of the word “coffee,” (right here) is an adventure in itself.

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