Cancer warning label urged for processed meat

Evidence links processed meat, poultry to colorectal cancer risk

Bacon, ham, hot dogs, and other processed meat and poultry products should carry labeles warning that they can cause cancer, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) insists.

The non-profit organization wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to require a warning label to inform consumers that eating those foods is associated with an increased risk of cancer of the colon and rectum (colorectal cancer). 

A petition filed with the department today cites the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which concluded in 2015 that processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans.” 

Eating 50 grams per day of processed meat raises one’s risk of colorectal cancer by about 18 percent. A typical serving of ham, sausage, bologna, or hot dog weighs about 55 grams (about 2 ounces), CSPI said.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and will cause about 49,150 deaths in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society, which advises consumers to “minimize consumption of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, and hot dogs.”  

“Consumers deserve these warning labels to help them make informed choices about the foods they eat,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.  “Consumers who want to reduce their cancer risk may avoid processed meats or eat them much less often; other people may simply ignore the label. But without question, USDA should give people that choice.”

CSPI is asking for labels of all meat and poultry products preserved by smoking, curing, salting, and/or the addition of chemical preservatives to bear this message:

Photo“We recognize that the chances of the Trump administration taking advantage of this opportunity to protect the public health are slim,” said CSPI director Michael Jacobson.  “But at CSPI we’re used to taking the long view. We will continue pushing for regulatory measures that will protect the health of Democrats, Republicans, and all others.”

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