When will we see Warning Labels on Processed Meats?

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Should you stop eating processed meats? Red meats? That is your decision, but I won't wait for the government to publish new nutritional guidelines before I choose what to feed to my family.

When I was diagnosed with colon cancer less than a year ago, I thought it would be a good idea to immediately stop eating processed meats. As a kid who grew up on bologna sandwiches, Vienna sausages, and summer sausage, it was much easier to give up than I thought. A few years ago, we gave up fast foods, TV dinners, and most canned vegetables in an attempt to lose weight and eat healthy. When I began managing the local farmers market in September 2012, eating fresh, local and seasonal produce became second nature. Apparently, our changes in diet didn’t come soon enough for me.

Processed meat
In October 2015, the month after my diagnosis, the media reported that processed meat was classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans. Tobacco smoking and asbestos are also placed in this same class. Group 1 classification means there is sufficient and convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer.

So, why is there not a warning label on our lunch meat, hot dogs, canned meats, corned beef, and ham? Other meats are included, too, such as meats that have been transformed through processing ie: curing, salting, fermentation, smoking etc… they are all considered “processed meat”.

Red meat
Red meat is now classified as Group 2A – this means it is probably carcinogenic to humans. Health officials have long been telling the public to reduce their red meat consumption for a variety of health concerns, but now they suspect that red meat probably causes cancer, too?

If the World Health Organization says red meat probably causes cancer, and processed meats do cause cancer, I think there should be a warning label on these packages just like we see on cigarettes.

What if we just cook the Hell out of our meats, will that make it okay to eat? Nope – in fact, if you expose your meats to flame and high temperatures, it may even increase the risk – but the factual evidence leaves the experts with mixed opinions on that topic.

At the risk of repeating myself, please let me be perfectly clear, the World Health Organization says that epidemiological studies have shown eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer in humans. Period! Yet, they hesitate to make new recommendations regarding nutritional guidelines. The current recommendation is to moderate consumption of processed meats mostly to reduce the intake of fat and sodium, which are risk factors for obesity and cardiovascular disease. New guidelines aren’t expected until 2021!

Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with the amount of processed meats you consume. “An analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that every 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%.”

Well, how much is a serving compared to a 50 gram portion? A serving size of beef, considered to be 2 to 3 ounces of cooked, lean meat, by the American Heart Association, equals 75 grams, which is more than the 50 gram portion described above… not good news, huh?

In a January 2016 interview, Syndicated Columnist and Investigative Reporter Amy Goodman (host of Democracy Now!) reported, “Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer of the American Cancer Society, recently commented ‘The science on the link between cancer and diet is extensive. By omitting specific diet recommendations, such as eating less red and processed meat, these guidelines miss a critical and significant opportunity to reduce suffering and death from cancer.'”

Personally, I want anyone who reads this to know, I had colon cancer, and I remember very specifically saying, “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.” It was a horrible experience!

Some are even blaming the Obama administration for keeping this issue out of the spotlight. While many of the lobby donations to candidates have been to republicans, the highest presidential recipient, from meat processing and products donations, has been to Hillary Clinton.

Should you stop eating processed meats? Red meats? That is your decision, but I won’t wait for the government to publish new nutritional guidelines before I choose what to feed to my family.

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