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Bacon and Botulism

The nitrite preservatives in processed meats such as bologna, bacon, ham, and hot dogs form carcinogenic nitrosamines but also reduce the growth of botulism bacteria, forcing regulators to strike a balance between consumers risking cancer or a deadly form of food poisoning.

February 27, 2012 |
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Sources Cited

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Hu J, La Vecchia C, Morrison H, Negri E, Mery L; Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group. Salt, processed meat and the risk of cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2011 Mar;20(2):132-9.

van Lonkhuijzen L, Kirsh VA, Kreiger N, Rohan TE. Endometrial cancer and meat consumption: a case-cohort study. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2011 Jul;20(4):334-9.

Ferrucci LM, Sinha R, Ward MH, Graubard BI, Hollenbeck AR, Kilfoy BA, Schatzkin A, Michaud DS, Cross AJ. Meat and components of meat and the risk of bladder cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Cancer. 2010 Sep 15;116(18):4345-53.

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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Emily Barney

Transcript

There are literally hundreds of studies on the link between cancer and cured meats like bologna, bacon ham and hot dogs but just for a taste, just over last year or so, processed meat consumption was significantly associated with bladder cancer, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and then all the way down the digestive tract: throat cancer, esophageal cancer, more esophageal cancer, more esophageal cancer and stomach cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. Oh, and in a 10 for 1 deal, Processed meat was significantly related to the risk of stomach, colon, rectal, pancreas, lung, prostate, testis, kidney, and bladder cancer—and leukemia. That’s why the official American Institute for Cancer Research recommendation is to try to avoid processed meats entirely.

With concern over the potential danger of nitrosamines growing, consumer groups, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, petitioned the USDA as far back as 1972 to ban or at least greatly reduce the nitrite in cured meats. The USDA denied the petition citing nitrite’s role in the prevention of botulism bacteria that can grow inside vacuum-packed meats. They had to weight the risk of cancer with of consumers getting deadly food poisoning bacteria from lunch meat.

You know in 2011, the National Pork Board officially changed their quarter-century old slogan from Pork: the other white meat, to Pork: Be Inspired. Maybe for bacon they should have considered the tagline: Cancer or botulism, take your pick

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

To help out on the site please email <a

href= “mailto:volunteer@nutritionfacts.org” >volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This reminds me of the cooked meat carcinogen issue. If we undercook meat, then we can get food poisoning (see for example Fecal Bacteria SurveyChicken Out of UTIsU.S. Meat Supply Flying at Half Staph) but if we make sure meat is well-done, we risk exposure to carcinogens produced when muscle flesh is exposed to high temperatures (see Fast Food Tested For CarcinogensMuscle Tremors Diet, Carcinogens in Roasted Chicken). Tomorrow I'll cover why nitrites from meat can be harmful while nitrites from nitrates in vegetables can be helpful. Can't wait for more on the latest in nutritional science? There are hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Using Greens to Improve Athletic PerformanceTop 10 Most Popular Videos of the Year, How Chemically Contaminated Are We?, and Strawberries Can Reverse Cancer Progression

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    This reminds me of the cooked meat carcinogen issue. If we undercook meat, then we can get food poisoning (see for example Fecal Bacteria Survey, Chicken Out of UTIs, U.S. Meat Supply Flying at Half Staph) but if we make sure meat is well-done, we risk exposure to carcinogens produced when muscle flesh is exposed to high temperatures (see Fast Food Tested For Carcinogens, Muscle Tremors Diet, Carcinogens in Roasted Chicken). Tomorrow I’ll cover why nitrites from meat can be harmful while nitrites from nitrates in vegetables can be helpful. Can’t wait for more on the latest in nutritional science? There are hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/wickedchicken/ wickedchicken

    It seems so …negligent…that we know these things yet nobody cares! Can’t believe more of a fuss is not made about processed meats. Even the WCRF say avoid it! They are legit, and have a wide audience. And people eat these foods everyday with no intention of changing! Why are they allowed to sell it? Ban it I say! It’s a major contributor to future healthcare costs from future diseaed people. Taxpayers money. Ban it and Save ourselves the bill…..

    • florina

      Maybe this is “their” way to stop the overpopulation on this Planet …

    • matthk

      Ugh! Scarmongering and bad science. Get with the times people.
      This is a dumb as freaking out about ‘radioactive fish’ from Fukushima when an organic banana has 20 times the level of radiation these fish have.

      If you want to get angry about anything, get angry about grains, fructose and sugar. The real health demons of the modern age.

      http://chriskresser.com/the-nitrate-and-nitrite-myth-another-reason-not-to-fear-bacon

      • Aoitombo

        The guy who wrote this article doesn’t even have a college degree. You believe him over a M.D. who’s written books and is considered a subject matter expert?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance!

  • Growller

    Does this information also pertain to ham and bacon that do not contain nitrates or other food preservatives?

    • Toxins

      Perhaps not, but nitrites are only 1 issue seen with these foods. Something that cannot be escaped whether it be the purest, organic, pasture raised farm animal or a factory farmed animal are endotoxins and increased levels of igf-1

      http://nutritionfacts.org/index.php?s=endotoxemia

      http://nutritionfacts.org/index.php?s=igf-1

      • http://www.eatandbeatcancer.com/ Harriet Sugar Miller

        Are you saying that meats cured with celery seed and ascorbic acid, which I’ve seen in some places, don’t contain nitrosamines?