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article imageOp-Ed: Processed meat — Yes, it’s a killer

By Paul Wallis     Mar 7, 2013 in Health
Sydney - Results from a European study indicate that processed meats definitely are bad for your health. They’re believed responsible for about 3% of deaths in the EU, but the worse news is that they’re also major risk factors for serious medical conditions.
Speaking as someone with Anglo/German ancestry, I happen to like sausages, bacon and the other classic processed foods. That said, the preservatives in processed meat, particularly sodium nitrite, (preservative 250 and related) have been known to be major possible risks by the healthy food advocates for years, so this finding is more of a confirmation than a surprise.
The Telegraph:
Analysis of the diets and medical history of almost half a million men and women linked processed meat to deaths from cancer and heart disease.
The Europe-wide research, including work by Oxbridge scientists, found that processed meat is to blame for about one in 30 deaths. The researchers suggested a limit of no more than 20g a day of processed meat – equal to one rasher of bacon.
Not exactly luxurious, is it?
The figures for heart disease were striking – those who ate the most processed meat, more than 160g or three sausages a day, were 72 per cent more likely to die of heart disease.
A study last year found that eating 50g of processed meat a day – the equivalent of one sausage or three rashers of bacon – raises the likelihood of cancer by a fifth.
That 50g is just a few ounces a day. It’s also a lot less than the average meal content. One of the problems is fat, but it’s quite possible that processing adds additional factors. Processed meat is basically made from offcuts from meat sources, not suitable for sale. The process includes various forms of curing and addition of preservatives.
To clarify a nutritional point- Meat from whatever source, unless it’s organ meat, has a similar bandwidth of nutritional values for protein and other nutrients. In theory, processed meat should be a good economical food choice. The fact that processed meat has now been proven dangerous to health in such unambiguous terms creates an issue for the food industry.
Modern food processing in all its unlovable glory has added a combination of waste management in terms of use of waste/leftover fats from meat production in food products. High fat foods like processed meats are likely to be the recipients of excess fat content for no other reason than to find a commercial use for that fat. So one of the obvious health risks is there as much for financial reasons as for any other reason.
The economic problem for consumers is that sausages, salami and other types of processed meat are good for the budget. They can last for a long time, and they’re relatively cheap. They also taste good, and add a zing to any meal.
Ironically, the solution to the problem has been there for centuries. Ancient food curing processes provided real meat without the additional garbage. Smoked, dried, salted and pickled meat were pretty reliable foods for a lot of recorded history. Modern technology could easily dehydrate meat much more efficiently.
All the components of processed meat may really need are to simply drain off the useless fat and homogenize the meat content. That could produce tons of useful, economic protein and fill the current processed meat market with good quality food.
Sorry about the greed, but if the food industry expects people to eat food that provides a great chance of major medical conditions, forget it. This study is unequivocal and it comes, excuse the expression, from the top of the food chain for this type of research. I had to give up my much loved sausages and bacon years ago because it was actually causing stomach irritations.
Looking at this I’m glad I did, but as usual an easily soluble problem isn’t being solved. Someone’s making a few bucks out of a product that kills people and we all know where the commercial corporate priorities are likely to go. Meanwhile, if there’s anyone out there with the brains to simply provide a good product, there’s a huge market waiting for you.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about processed meat health risks, sodium nitrite, methods of curing meat, food technology, food processing market
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