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Pink death: chemicals used to make ham, bacon increases cancer risk, experts warn


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Nitrites used in the meat industry have long been a subject of controversy, and experts warn of the imminent health risks they bear, despite their anti-inflammatory and pleasant coloring properties.

The reputation of a number of experts and politicians warned that the reputation of the meat industry will reach a record low if it does not remove the cancer-causing chemicals from processed foods such as bacon and ham.

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The group, led by Professor Chris Elliott, stated that they had reached a “scientific consensus” that nitrites used to treat meat produce carcinogens, called nitrosamines, when ingested, citing evidence that consumption of processed meat, such as sausage, ham or bacon, contains These chemicals lead to 6000 cases of bowel cancer each year in the UK, more than four times the number of road fatalities in the country. The group has launched a campaign to take this issue as seriously as the level of sugar in the products.

“The government’s actions to remove nitrite from processed meat should not be far away,” said one of the scientists in the group, cardiologist Dr. Assem Malhotra, adding that if no action is taken for this purpose, the meat industry will be “condemned to a similar reputational blow to tobacco. ”

The agitation coalition included not only doctors and scientists, but also quite a few politicians, namely the deputy leader of the Labor Party Tom Watson; former ministers of the shadow environment Mary Cree and Kerry McCarthy; David Ames, chairman of the parliamentary interparty group on food and health, Tori David Ames, and others.

In a statement, the coalition warned that not enough action was being taken to raise awareness of the nitrites in the processed meat and the health risks they bear, "in stark contrast to the warnings regularly published regarding sugar and fatty foods."

The coalition states that the meat industry claims that nitrites, which give the ham an attractive pink color, are crucial to eradicating botulism and other infections, while Malhotra added that the producers of the cult Parma ham did not use nitrites for 25 years, motivating others manufacturers also ditch harmful chemicals.

This is not the first time these concerns have been voiced.

The World Health Organization issued a similar warning back in 2015, when it published compelling evidence linking processed meat containing nitrites and nitrosamines, with 34,000 cases of colorectal cancer worldwide each year.

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This year, at least two studies raised concerns about this: one was conducted by researchers at the University of Glasgow, who published their findings that women who reduced their consumption of processed meat were less susceptible to breast cancer, while while the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine The study suggests a direct link between nitrites and the emergence of mental health problems.

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