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Processed Meats Declared Too Dangerous for Human Consumption

Updated on December 12, 2007

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has just completed a detailed review of more than 7,000 clinical studies covering links between diet and cancer. Its conclusion is rocking the health world with startling bluntness: Processed meats are too dangerous for human consumption. Consumers should stop buying and eating all processed meat products for the rest of their lives.

Processed meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, sandwich meat, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami and virtually all red meat used in frozen prepared meals. They are usually manufactured with a carcinogenic ingredient known as sodium nitrite. This is used as a color fixer by meat companies to turn packaged meats a bright red color so they look fresh. Unfortunately, sodium nitrite also results in the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines in the human body. And this leads to a sharp increase in cancer risk for those who eat them.

A 2005 University of Hawaii study found that processed meats increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 67 percent. Another study revealed that every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 50 percent. These are alarming numbers. Note that these cancer risks do not come from eating fresh, non-processed meats. They only appear in people who regularly consume processed meat products containing sodium nitrite.

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

* Bacon

* Sausage

* 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." Today, the corporations that dominate American food and agricultural interests hold tremendous influence over the FDA and USDA. Consumers are offered no real protection from dangerous chemicals intentionally added to foods, medicines and personal care products.

You can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of processed meats by following a few simple rules:

1. Always read ingredient labels.

2. Don't buy anything made with sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate.

3. Don't eat red meats served by restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels or other institutions.

And finally, eat more fresh produce with every meal. There is evidence that natural vitamin C found in citrus fruits and exotic berries (like camu camu) helps prevent the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines, protecting you from the devastating health effects of sodium nitrite in processed meats. The best defense, of course, is to avoid eating processed meats altogether.


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    • profile image

      baikeDuemia 5 years ago

      My partner and i employed to acquire on top of life although these days I have built up the opposition.

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      Lamontzgk 5 years ago

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      eatrealfood 6 years ago

      check out "Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits" by Norman G Hord, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009. The study provides information of the nitrate and nitrite content of foods.

      Spinach contains over a 100 times more nitrate than bacon and cranberry as much nitrites as bacon.

    • profile image

      abdallah 6 years ago

      imagine what it does to your brain

    • profile image

      Yeah 6 years ago

      I guess processed meat is what is rotting in the stomach than organic red meat..

    • profile image

      Marelize 6 years ago

      Please Note IT IS NOT Red meat per se, but PROCESSED meats! For certain blood types red meat actually inhabits certain forms of cancer and form part of the recovery plan for patients.

    • profile image

      Draconian Diarrhea 6 years ago

      BEEF...It's what's rotting in your colon.

    • profile image

      Cancer is caused... 6 years ago

      It's common knowledge now that cancer is caused by excessive carbohydrates/sugar. Our ancestors ate meat, LOTS of meat. It wasn't processed meat though so buy organic and you'll be fine. Cut the breads, pastas, rices and grains out of your diet as that's what's killing us. Oh, and you'll drop a bunch of weight too by cutting out the carbs.

    • profile image

      Lazarus Black 6 years ago

      From Wikipedia: "WCRF International directs and supports the research activities of the WCRF global network with the aim of raising awareness that cancer is largely preventable and funding scientific research into the links between cancer and diet, physical activity and body fat."

      What this means specifically is that all of their research is predetermined to their preferred outcome. In their own words: "...half a million studies were identified, which were screened down to 22,000. Eventually, 7,000 were deemed relevant..."

      Which means that they didn't do their own studies to determine what outcome MAY happen - they went from 500,000 down to 7,000 to pick the ones THEY said were "relevant" - so they specifically avoided citing any contrary research which, out of 500,000 there had to be. Just curious what that research was?

      They could still be right - but this is obviously an agenda driven format for publishing and we can't assume we know by whom or for what reason. Probably they are well meaning and trying very hard to be accurate - but it doesn't help their cause when someone only identified as "Shamz" writes a completely biased article based solely upon their own press releases.

      I hope they are trying to do the right thing - but I won't trust them until I actually read about truly independent research - and not picking and choosing of others' research that fit into the conclusions they have publicized as their primary advocacy.

    • profile image

      Norm 6 years ago

      I am a 44 year old male that has been battling colorectal cancer since Nov 2010. My family has owned a Deli since before my birth. As a result my diet consisted of extreem amounts of processed meats. Having cancer is a real thing that is devistating not only to the person affected, but everyone that loves them. So that said I won't dignify the negetive comments that I'm a hippy because I have cancer.

    • profile image

      Christopher Berry 6 years ago

      This is an interview with poet/author/musician/brilliant human being Saul Williams... he discusses, diet starting around 8:30, and I think that it can give a lot of great insight to this discussion, and really all discussions. I invite you all to listen to this and all 4 parts of this incredibly insightful and connected interview with one of the most magnificent human beings I have ever come across...

      "'s just a personal choice (being a vegetarian), I would never say that's what everybody needs to do. ... Realize that your diet is not only what you eat, it's what you read, it's what you listen to, it's what you watch, all of that. … If you listen to Metallica for a week, you might have one experience, versus if you listen to João Gilberto for a week. You'll think differently. That's also your diet. If you watch TV for a week, non-stop, versus if you don't watch TV all week, as a discipline, that's also your diet. If you talk about the things that upset you everyday for a week, versus if you make a decision not to complain for a week... that's your diet. It affects you. It all has quantifiable effects on you. ...

      I love the taste of meat, but I don't like referring to other lifeforms simply as meat, and so part of my discipline is distancing myself from that. And as an american, in america particularly, I think that can be important, just because our practices with food and all of the mass manufacturing. ... We artificially insiminate our cows so they stay pregnant 12 month out of the year, so that we have that much milk to go every place, and then we have these high cancer rates and all this other stuff. In my own way, it does make me feel lighter, I feel the difference. But if I were preparing for a fight, maybe I'd take more of the warrior position; “gimme it raw!”. But I'm not preparing for a fight, I'm preparing for the end of fighting.”

    • profile image

      John 7 years ago

      To Those of you that want the journal article here it is:

      The World Cancer Research Fund report 2007: A challenge for the meat processing industry Review Article

      Meat Science, Volume 80, Issue 4, December 2008, Pages 953-959

      Daniël Demeyer, Karl Honikel and Stefaan De Smet

    • profile image

      Kenric Ashe 7 years ago

      To be fair, however, it's true that the increased risk of cancer is blown out of proportion by many. Look at the 2005 AACR study for example. There were 482 cases of pancreatic cancer out of 190,545 people. That's only about 0.253% or 1 out of every 395 people. The 67% increase refers to what scientists call the "background risk", which if I understand it correctly is the average chance that any person has even if they consume no processed meat. That simply means your risk increases from 0.253% to around 0.422% or 1 out of 237, probably a bit less if the 0.253% figure includes those who eat the most processed meat. A 0.422% risk is still very low, especially compared to risk factors that have a much higher impact such as smoking cigarettes. Another way to look at it is you still have a 99.578% chance of NOT getting pancreatic cancer.

      Of course this doesn't change the fact that there are other reasons why processed meats are unhealthy. I'm just saying it's important to not misrepresent the facts because that's exactly what the meat industry does, and if you're trying to convince people to be vegetarians for example, your case will look weak once these facts are understood.

      Blanket statements such as "avoid processed meats" aren't sufficient either. Each person has the right to make their own lifestyle choices and their decisions should be based on how much risk they're willing to accept. I would hope, however, that people also consider the well being of animals, and at the very least buy organic, free range, etc, because they deserve to live a good life as well. That's what makes this debate extra complicated, similar to abortion debates. Well this isn't the place to branch off into a million tangents. I'm just saying no one's arguments should be based on pseudo-science.

    • profile image

      Kenric Ashe 7 years ago

      @Republican, yeah look at these hippies:

    • profile image

      DAC 7 years ago

      Why would you want to eat these chemicals without knowing what they do to your body? Try and educate yourself on the harm sodium nitrate can do and just how harmful this chemical is.Don't just stick your head in the sand,seek a little knowledge and then make your own mind up!!!

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      lucas  7 years ago

      HERE IN AUSTRALIA THERE HAS BEEN ALOT OF MEDIA COVERAGE ON ''SODIUM NITRATE'' and what it is used for,and after seeing what i have in the media and doing some of my own research,i will never eat cold meats,bacon etc again!!!

      Fancy going to a supermarket or butcher shop to buy some mince,or other meats and never knowing that you could be buying revolting ''OLD'' meat that's been made to look new again,with a freshen up courtesy of a little sodium nitrate................. How revolting,and this is what they do in alot of countries around the world............Hey why throw out old meat when you can simply make it ''LIKE''new again with a little help from this deadly ingredient???????

    • profile image

      Walt Henry 8 years ago

      The real reason for all this cowshit about red meat comes out at the end of the article. it's an attempt to save the poor animals. Why not avoid raising the animals in the first place?

    • profile image

      fxyvgngrl 8 years ago

      Going vegan is the healthiest way to live. It's healthy and it's kinder to the animals that suffer and die for this crappy food.

    • profile image

      reply to hi 8 years ago

      Meat free diet does not mean more energy, are stomachs are conditioned to process meat more than vegetables.

    • profile image

      a pepperoni fan 8 years ago

      You can have my pepperoni when you pry it out of my cold dead hands.

    • profile image

      Melody Maker 8 years ago

      It is time to enjoy the benefits of a meat-free diet: More energy, healthier, lighter feeling, happier. Why make your body become a cemetery for dead animals... GO VEGO.. it ROCKS!

    • profile image

      Hi 8 years ago

      People have a tendency to dismiss relevant information when it comes their way because they want "more proof" or it worded in a more elegant manner. Use your logic,you have it for a reason. Do not allow your unproductive programming to side track you, we have all been doing that for too long. All this is quite logical, if you want for further indepth studies then take the time to do the research. Many of us do not need to probe deeper as our logical mind tells us that yes off course it is bad for our health. It is time to wake up EYES WIDE OPEN

    • profile image

      Tony 8 years ago

      From the WCRF site:

      "To reduce your cancer risk, eat no more than 500g (cooked weight) per week of red meats, like beef, pork and lamb, and avoid processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and some sausages."

      Note that it does NOT say limit processed meats to 500g, it says "avoid."

      Here's a link to the abstract of the Hawaii Study. Took me all of 2 minutes. Sometimes you can learn more by looking for yourself....

    • profile image

      GS 8 years ago

      Isn't this quite old news? I remember my parents would discourage us from eating processed meats back in the 80s. Also, I wish such articles were backed up by more sources, and written in a less preachy way so it wouldn't come across as such sensationalist "hippie crap". There may be lots of truth, but eloquent wording probably works (which is why "they" usually win, in such matters).

    • profile image

      Todd 8 years ago

      I also went to the WCRF page and the only article I found said "limit your processed meats to 500 grams a week". So where do they say "never again"? I would like a link to that specific article and the "2005 University of Hawaii study" should be a link as well. It does come off as blogging rumor and losses some credibility.

      For the record. I only buy nitrate free meat already for the reasons listed. I just want hard proof to show my colleges.

    • profile image

      AWK 8 years ago

      I went to the WCRF page and couldn't find this info mentioned. It talks about not eating red meat or processed meat, but there's no huge review like that one being mentioned - at least that I could find.

      You HAVE to provide a link if you're going to make claims such as this, otherwise it can easily be brushed off as rumor and piss-poor blogging etiquette.

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      Diederick 8 years ago

      The Mediterranean diet: fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, fresh fish (cooked in its own fat (foil) in the oven with herbs and olives and some small tomatoes), white meat, some sweets and only home-made, no fried stuff, some pasta (lasagna, spaghetti), all accompanied by one good glass of red wine or an occasional beer, lots of still mineral water during the day, and a lot of physical excercice (walking, cycling) This is the healthiest way of living according to me and a good investment in the old age.

    • profile image

      Eric 8 years ago

      I'd like to see the AMA endorse this study. MSG- yea---bad stuff. But Sodium Nitrite prevents bacteria growth on meats that can make you sick. It's a preservative, and we've been using preservatives since the beginning of time. I don't have a cow in my backyard waiting to slaughter.

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      Duncan 8 years ago

      The person who asked for sources - it's in the first line of the article!! World Cancer Research Fund! Try to pay attention.

    • profile image

      Eric 8 years ago

      Why is everyone asking where this is coming from? It's right in the article: the World Cancer Research Fund. A simply google search will turn up their website with their reports with scientific studies cited.

    • profile image

      Frank 8 years ago

      It sounds plausible. But who is Shamz? And where did this study come from? Read "Better Living Through Whole Foods" By Al Morentin. He's not a hippie and has more "useful" information in his book.

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      earendil 8 years ago

      this is so true...otherwise why is there more cancer nowadays than just some years ago... of course it has to do with what we eat..and chemicals in the water, air.. etc

      We should all make a try not to eat processed foods, eating freshier thing will not only help us prevent cancer but also diabetes, and so much more other cronic diseases

    • profile image

      person 8 years ago

      Links? Sources? Anything proving this?

    • profile image

      Republican 8 years ago

      Sounds like a bunch of hippie propaganda, if you ask me

    • profile image

      Mike 8 years ago

      This is crazy!

      I'm going back to my crunchie days..

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      The things listed, unfortunately, form a great percentage of many 'modern' diets. When are people going to get the message?

    • profile image

      D. Francone 9 years ago

      I have lost two members of my family and two friend of mine, all of them whom died with a different kind of cancer, and all of them consumed red meat as part of their basic diet.


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