Updated Cancer Guidelines and the Meat Industry

Meat is an enormous industry in the United States. See the industry’s reaction to new cancer guidelines.

This video was originally published on NutritionFacts.org and republished with permission. NutritionFacts.org

Leaders in cancer charities recently developed new guidelines and implicated the meat industry. One such study suggested that food items considered party of the American cultural landscape like burgers, hot dogs and bacon to be so unhealthy that “data [does] not show any level of intake that can confidently be shown not to be associated with risk.” These guidelines list processed meat like the bologna in kids’ lunchboxes around the country to be on par with carcinogens such as formaldehyde and asbestos.

The meat industry, of course, takes this as an affront and calls it a “clear and present danger” to the meat industry as a whole, according to one source in the journal Meat Science. They further discuss how the issue is that processed meats are a necessity for our society and so we should not address a change in diet, but rather trying to find ways to keep processed meats on the shelves and in peoples’ stomachs. Some of the methods seem better than others on paper, but none of them are perfect. No one debates that nitrates, used most commonly as a coloring agent in these types of meats, are toxic for human consumption as we’ve studied their negative effects in the past. When questioned about other sources of coloring for processed meats however, the industry replied that this solution is unlikely to be used because they alter the appealing colors and flavors the public has grown accustomed to.

Unfortunately for the meat industry as well as for the rest of us, there does not seem to be a way to make processed meats any healthier without sacrificing the quality of flavor or texture. In short, the meat industry has made small efforts in trying to make a healthier product, but end up more or less telling us that we can either have good health or good sausage, but not both.

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