Like your daily hot dog or bacon sandwich? You may want to think again.
A new World Health Organization study found that processed meat like bacon and hot dogs cause cancer. It is the most prominent group to declare it a cause of the disease, and the U.S. beef industry isn’t happy about it. – Jenny Starrs.
The WHO’s cancer research unit now classifies processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” based on evidence from hundreds of studies, and linked it specifically to colon, or colorectal, cancer.
The report by the influential group stakes out one of the most aggressive stances against meat taken by a major health organization, and it is expected to face stiff criticism in the United States. The report outlined that simply eating 50 grams of processed meat each day — the equivalent of two slices of ham — can increase the risk of such cancer by 18%. However, the authors say the risks are relatively small to begin with.
The organization defines processed meat as any type of meat that is salted, cured or smoked to enhance its flavor or preserve it. Processed meat generally contains pork or beef, but may also contain poultry.
The WHO now classifies processed meat in the same category as smoking and asbestos, based on its certainty of a link with cancer, but stressed that did not mean they were equally dangerous.
Unprocessed red meat such as steak and lamb shanks is classified as “probably carcinogenic.”
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” says Kurt Straif, an official with the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which produced the report. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”
Sodium nitrite appears predominantly in red meat products (you won’t find it in chicken or fish products). Here’s a short list of food items to check carefully for sodium nitrite and monosodium glutamate (MSG), another dangerous additive:
- Beef jerky
- Hot dogs
- Sandwich meat
- Frozen pizza with meat
- Canned soups with meat
- Frozen meals with meat
- Ravioli and meat pasta foods
- Kid’s meals containing red meat
- Sandwich meat used at popular restaurants
- Nearly all red meats sold at public schools, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and theme parks
If sodium nitrite is so dangerous to humans, why do the FDA and USDA continue to allow this cancer-causing chemical to be used? The answer, of course, is that food industry interests now dominate the actions by U.S. government regulators. The USDA, for example, tried to ban sodium nitrite in the late 1970′s but was overridden by the meat industry. It insisted the chemical was safe and accused the USDA of trying to “ban bacon.”
About 34,000 cancer deaths a year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meats, according to figures cited by the panel. That’s a small fraction of the 8.2 million deaths caused by cancer in 2012, according to the latest WHO data.
On the second page you can find a good tips for preventing yourself.