Meat Industry Reaction to New Cancer Guidelines

Meat Industry Reaction to New Cancer Guidelines
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What was the meat industry’s response to the recommendation by leading cancer charities to stop eating processed meats, such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and lunchmeat?

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What was the meat industry’s response to the leading cancer charities’ recommendation to stop eating processed meat—like bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and lunchmeat? They acknowledged that the most recent international cancer prevention guidelines now urge people to avoid processed meat.

It is evident that such a statement represents “a clear and present danger” for the meat industry, reads one response in the journal Meat Science. Processed meat, they say, is a social necessity. How could anyone live without bologna? The challenge for the meat industry is to find a way to maintain the consumption of these convenience products while somehow not damaging public health.

We’re still not sure what it is in processed meat that’s so carcinogenic, but the most probable educated guess for explaining the damaging effect of processed meats involves heme compounds, along with nitrosamine and free radical formation, resulting ultimately in carcinogenic DNA damage. To reduce the nitrosamines, they could remove the nitrites—something that the industry has been considering for decades, because of the long known toxic effects they cause. The industry adds them to keep the meat pink. There are, evidently, other coloring additives available. Nevertheless, it’s going to be hard to get their industry to change, in view of the positive effects of these substances as preservatives, and desirable flavor and red color-developing ingredients. No one wants green eggs and ham.

It’s like salt reduction in meat products. They’d like to, but one of the biggest barriers to salt replacement within the meat industry is cost, as salt is one of the cheapest food ingredients available. Now, there are a number of taste enhancers they can inject into the meat that can help compensate for the salt reduction, but some leave a bitter aftertaste. So, they can also just inject a patented bitter-blocking chemical that can prevent taste nerve stimulation at the same time—the first of what may become a stream of products that are produced due to the convergence of food technology and biotech.

Or, they could always try adding non-meat materials to the meat. You could add fiber, or resistant starch from beans, that have protective effects against cancer. After all, in the United States, dietary fiber is under-consumed by most adults, indicating that fiber fortification in meat products could have health benefits—failing to note, of course, that their products are one of the reasons the American diet is so deficient in fiber in the first place.

The industry is all in favor of reformulating their products to cause less cancer, but obviously any such optimization has to achieve a healthier product without affecting the hedonic aspects. It is important to realize that nutritional and technological quality in the meat industry are inversely related. An improvement in one will lead to deterioration of the other. They know that consumption of lard is not the best thing in the world—heart disease, being our number one killer and all. However, those downsides are in sharp contrast to the technological qualities of saturated fat, which makes it indispensable in the manufacture of meat products. Otherwise, you just don’t get the same lard consistency. The pigs’ fat doesn’t get hard enough, and, as a result, a fatty smear upon cutting or slicing can be observed on the cutting surface of the knife.

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 Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to JD Hancock via Flickr

What was the meat industry’s response to the leading cancer charities’ recommendation to stop eating processed meat—like bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and lunchmeat? They acknowledged that the most recent international cancer prevention guidelines now urge people to avoid processed meat.

It is evident that such a statement represents “a clear and present danger” for the meat industry, reads one response in the journal Meat Science. Processed meat, they say, is a social necessity. How could anyone live without bologna? The challenge for the meat industry is to find a way to maintain the consumption of these convenience products while somehow not damaging public health.

We’re still not sure what it is in processed meat that’s so carcinogenic, but the most probable educated guess for explaining the damaging effect of processed meats involves heme compounds, along with nitrosamine and free radical formation, resulting ultimately in carcinogenic DNA damage. To reduce the nitrosamines, they could remove the nitrites—something that the industry has been considering for decades, because of the long known toxic effects they cause. The industry adds them to keep the meat pink. There are, evidently, other coloring additives available. Nevertheless, it’s going to be hard to get their industry to change, in view of the positive effects of these substances as preservatives, and desirable flavor and red color-developing ingredients. No one wants green eggs and ham.

It’s like salt reduction in meat products. They’d like to, but one of the biggest barriers to salt replacement within the meat industry is cost, as salt is one of the cheapest food ingredients available. Now, there are a number of taste enhancers they can inject into the meat that can help compensate for the salt reduction, but some leave a bitter aftertaste. So, they can also just inject a patented bitter-blocking chemical that can prevent taste nerve stimulation at the same time—the first of what may become a stream of products that are produced due to the convergence of food technology and biotech.

Or, they could always try adding non-meat materials to the meat. You could add fiber, or resistant starch from beans, that have protective effects against cancer. After all, in the United States, dietary fiber is under-consumed by most adults, indicating that fiber fortification in meat products could have health benefits—failing to note, of course, that their products are one of the reasons the American diet is so deficient in fiber in the first place.

The industry is all in favor of reformulating their products to cause less cancer, but obviously any such optimization has to achieve a healthier product without affecting the hedonic aspects. It is important to realize that nutritional and technological quality in the meat industry are inversely related. An improvement in one will lead to deterioration of the other. They know that consumption of lard is not the best thing in the world—heart disease, being our number one killer and all. However, those downsides are in sharp contrast to the technological qualities of saturated fat, which makes it indispensable in the manufacture of meat products. Otherwise, you just don’t get the same lard consistency. The pigs’ fat doesn’t get hard enough, and, as a result, a fatty smear upon cutting or slicing can be observed on the cutting surface of the knife.

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 Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to JD Hancock via Flickr

Doctor's Note

According to the World Health Organization’s IARC, processed meat is now a Group 1 carcinogen—the highest designation. How is it that schools still feed it to our children?

How Much Cancer Does Lunch Meat Cause? Watch the video to find out.

For more on carcinogens, cancer, and meat, see:

Some of the meat industry’s finagling reminds me of tobacco industry tactics. See, for example, Big Food Using the Tobacco Industry Playbook and The Healthy Food Movement: Strength in Unity. You can also check out American Medical Association Complicity with Big Tobacco.

Skeptical about the danger of excessive sodium intake? Check out The Evidence That Salt Raises Blood Pressure. If you’re still not convinced, see Sprinkling Doubt: Taking Sodium Skeptics with a Pinch of Salt and Sodium Skeptics Try to Shake Up the Salt Debate. Why do the meat industries add salt when millions of lives are at stake? Find out in Big Salt: Getting to the Meat of the Matter.

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