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article imageProcessed meats are carcinogens so where's the outrage?

By Michael Krebs     May 23, 2009 in Health
The World Cancer Research Fund announced that eating just one sausage a day increases the chances of developing bowel cancer by 20 percent. Worldwide, the broad consumption of animal flesh across a society’s population is considered a luxury.
The recommendation from the UK-headquartered cancer charity amounts to an outright avoidance of all processed meats: bacon, ham, pastrami, hot dogs, bologna, sausage, pepperoni, beef jerky, liverwurst, and certain kinds of ground beef and meatballs. (Please see this link for the World Cancer Research Fund's lifestyle recommendations toward preventing cancer).
The World Cancer Research Fund’s assertion effectively catalogues these meat products as carcinogens.
I asked a spokesperson for the National Meat Association to provide me with some guidance as to why these processed meat products should remain on store shelves, and he said that he had only heard of the report “tangentially” and pointed me to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. However, I did not receive a return phone call from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in time for this report.
I have been jogging slap-footedly off and on – one of my sloppy attempts to burn off the residue from the many years of processed food products that I have consumed. But the aerobic activities I have long considered protection for the heart. Cancer is entirely another matter. While exercise certainly helps reduce the cancer risk, environmental cellular mutations – such as too much sun or poor food choices – are reflections of exposures.
Too many exposures eventually breed mutations.
Meat is a fabric of American culture, and processed meat products in particular are endemic to the society.
The cultural demand for processed meat products include everything from baseball parks to Fourth of July cookouts to the broad swaths of American breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner choices. The breadth of availability of these products – and the volume of their consumption in the U.S. alone – is enough to support bowel cancer rates for generations. In 2005, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimated that Americans would consume 150 million hot dogs on July 4th of that year alone – that is roughly one hot dog for every two people.
How many pepperoni pizza slices are consumed in a given day in America? How many bologna sandwiches are sent off in children’s lunch bags daily?
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is now suggesting vegetarianism. “Vegetarians are about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than non-vegetarians, regardless of other risks such as smoking, body size, and socioeconomic status,” PCRM states.
Vegetarianism is not at all akin to apple pie and baseball in America. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, only 2.5 percent of the U.S. population can be considered vegetarians. Given this, the likelihood of tofu dogs at the ballpark is quite slim.
Worldwide, the broad consumption of animal flesh across a society’s population is considered a luxury. America – as the global poster child for affluence and consumerism – can certainly be found at the pinnacle of such well-endowed societies.
Considering the dangers posed by processed meat products and the vast consumption of those products by the U.S. population, should the Food and Drug Administration or some other responsible and rightful government body step in and – at a minimum – sound the alarm?
Well, maybe not.
Meat is big business in America. IBIS World pegged the U.S. meat, beef, and poultry processing industry at $150 billion in 2005. That kind of money can certainly buy silence.
More about Cancer, Carcinogens, Processed meat, Hot dogs, Sausage
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