Ultra-Cautious CDC Wants You To Cook Your Prosciutto and Salami

The ultra-risk averse agency continues to misunderstand how people actually behave in the wild.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the public yesterday that we should cook their charcuterie meats until steam emanates. This guidance stems from a salmonella outbreak in 17 states that the agency thinks is linked to prosciutto, salami, and the like. Setting aside the fact that cooking prosciutto until it's well-done is demonic behavior, it's worth noting that the outbreak has made just 36 people sick, with 12 hospitalizations and zero deaths so far.

To the CDC's credit, it notes that salmonella is especially harmful for children under 5 and adults over 65; for the vast majority of the adult population, salmonella infections are not especially severe (though best to avoid). But the CDC has a long history of urging people to do things that they quite obviously won't actually do. The agency recommends cooking steak until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees (rare steak is therefore in violation), says we should cook eggs until both yolks and whites are firm, and tells women to limit their alcohol consumption to one standard drink or less per day (HA!).

Forget beef carpaccio or steak tartare or jammy egg korma. Forget eggs benedict replete with savory hollandaise (or anything poached or soft-boiled). Forget a scorpion bowl or an ultra-boozy jungle bird or a Philadelphia Fish House Punch, which will surely exceed the highly restrictive one-drink limit for the delicate ladyfolk. For pregnant women, the CDC's recommendations are even more restrictive: no soft cheeses, sushi, unpasteurized milk, or booze. ("There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy," says the CDC. Parenting-data guru Emily Oster notes that "many studies of low or moderate prenatal alcohol exposure show no impacts.")

This isn't a pitched battle for human freedom. The CDC isn't forcing you to cook that prosciutto, and stopping the spread of salmonella is clearly covered by their job description. But yet again, the agency fails to understand how human beings actually operate in the wild. People faced with potentially tainted deli meats will either throw them away or risk salmonella exposure. What they will probably not be doing en masse is searing or boiling them, just as most people do not spend their entire lives avoiding poached eggs.

It's all par for the course for an agency that says that people of all ages and vaccination statuses should mask up in schools—something out of step with the school-masking policies many other developed countries have embraced. An agency helmed by Rochelle Walensky, who has been grossly exaggerating the odds of vaccinated adults contracting breakthrough infections. An agency that just weeks ago asked vaccinated people to mask up indoors again, prompting pandemonium, despite the fact that the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are coming from parts of the country with extraordinarily low vaccination rates, who are probably less likely to listen to the CDC's ultra-cautious masking guidance anyway.

The CDC also recommends, weirdly, that "international travelers arriving in the United States are still recommended to get a SARS-CoV-2 viral test 3-5 days after travel regardless of vaccination status"—something I surely failed to do this summer, in part because the government forces people to get COVID tests prior to entry back into the U.S., regardless of vaccination status, making this high level of redundancy absurd.

But public health officials have been overly cautious fun-haters since the dawn of man (or at least the dawn of bureaucracy); the prime difference now is an overly anxious media class that parrots their every recommendation, and a bunch of state and local policy makers who set rules based on what the agency's idea of best practices, with, again, little regard for how normal people are willing to modify their behavior.

Maybe the disease-control agency that's taken to creating regulating evictions (really!) and telling Americans to cook their charcuterie offerings should be exalted just a smidge less.