UK Experts: Stop Adding Cancer-Causing Chemicals to Meat

UK Experts: Stop Adding Cancer-Causing Chemicals to Meat
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A coalition of experts and politicians in the United Kingdom are warning that the meat industry will gain the murderous reputation of the tobacco industry if it doesn’t stop adding cancer-causing nitrites to meats like bacon and ham.

According to food scientist Professor Chris Elliott, and cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, the coalition has reached a “consensus of scientific opinion” that nitrites, used to cure meat, produce carcinogens called nitrosamines when ingested.

Nitrites are the chemicals that give processed meats their pink color.

The coalition further claims that nitrites in meat cause 6,600 cases of bowel cancer in the UK each year – 4 times the number of deaths caused by vehicle accidents, They are campaigning for the government to give the chemicals the same health priority as sugar.

Read: Processed Meats Skyrocket Your Risk of Cancer

Malhotra said:

“Government action to remove nitrites from processed meats should not be far away. Nor can a day of reckoning for those who dispute the incontrovertible facts. The meat industry must act fast, act now – or be condemned to a similar reputational blow to that dealt to tobacco.”

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified processed meat as “probably carcinogenic,” linking the foods to colorectal, esophageal, lung, and pancreatic cancer. The agency, part of the World Health Organization (WHO), placed the blame on nitrites and nitrosamines.

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In October 2018, processed meat was linked to breast cancer when a Harvard analysis of more than 1.5 million women showed that regularly consuming processed meat increased the risk of the disease by 9%.

In a December 29, 2018 statement, the coalition said “that not enough is being done to raise awareness of nitrites in our processed meat and their health risks, in stark contrast to warnings regularly issued regarding sugar and fattening foods.”

Read: Healthy Hot Dogs? Hot Dogs and Processed Meats as Bad as Cigarettes

The meat industry argues that nitrites are essential for fighting botulism and infection, but Malhotra pointed out that Parma ham (Italian dried ham) hasn’t contained nitrites in 25 years. In fact, many meat producers have stopped using nitrites in their products, which proves that the chemicals are indeed unnecessary.

The European Food Safety Authority maintains that exposure to nitrites as food additives are within safe levels for all population groups, except for a “slight exceedance” in children who consume a diet containing high levels of the preservatives. [2]

A spokesperson for the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said:

“The industry is constantly looking at the levels of nitrites and nitrates, but reductions have to be balanced against the food safety issues and minimizing waste.”


[1] The Guardian

[2] BBC News