Cured meats and health: a matter of casing
Are you sure to know do you eat and especially if what you eat is healthy? Take the case of cured meat, term that covers a wide variety of food products, among which the most common, only to remember those with minced meat, you can distinguish raw and uncured (like sausage), raw and slightly cured (like cotechino and pig’s trotter), raw and cured (typically salami) cooked (such as bologna, hot dogs or capicola) and smoked (from nduja to smoked sausages).
Usually are thought to be unhealthy foods: it all depends on the quality of the meat used, but certainly cured meat usually have a high sodium content, responsible for both of pressure increase both of gastric disorders and potential factor of increased risk of cancers in the digestive tract and osteoporosis. Cured meats are also often high in fat as triglycerides and cholesterol, elements that can promote the accumulation of Ldl (the “bad cholesterol”) and hypertension.
It is the case, therefore, that you be aware of the quality of the cured meat you eat, preferring to eat but a few of good quality that not many of poor quality. Too bad that sometimes the quality is not so easy to check. The meat, like any other commodity, from oil to wine, from potatoes to truffles, may originate from abroad and be processed or even only distributed by an Italian company, becoming on the label “made in Italy” in all respects.
If the composition the product shall be declared, more attention in the case of cured meat should be paid to its coating, which can be of natural or synthetic type. In the latter case the food industries using guts of cellulose, collagen and collati. The first are mainly of vegetable origin, but not natural, and contain most of the time plastics. They are therefore not edible as the seconds, made from scraps of meat (like skin or bones) mainly used for bagging products with grilled meat and edible, although of lower quality than the guts derived from the bowels animals through a procedure described strictly by law.
The collati guts, finally, are basically foreign production, made from scraps of intestine overlapped and glued, have the same use of animal gut and are edible, but even in this case it is not always certain that the production was performed by using the quality criteria expected from Italian legislation. There is then one last category of casings for sausages, 100% synthetic, basically plastic, used for cooked sausages, especially of low quality.
Unfortunately, the law does not provide that kind of natural casings or collagen are listed on the label of cured meat so it's not possible to understand the quality of the same. Only in the case of artificial casings, non edible (i.e. that you can’t eat) they must be declared on the label. The need of the industry is to maintain the highest margins possible, so that if health is usually well protected, not always the quality of what arrives on our tables is above any suspicion at least in terms of taste. It would be the case that it was, given that it would protect better the true "made in Italy" distinguishing it more clearly from too many imitations.