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Scientists say this common method for preserving meat is actually dangerous: ‘A very real risk to public health’

One study showed mice developed 75% more cancerous tumors in their small intestines and 82% more tumors in their colons.

processed meat

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The consumption of processed meats is a reason why colorectal cancer is the second-leading type of cancer in Europe.

“Processed meat consumption, including meats with preservative salts such as sodium nitrite, have been implicated in CRC pathogenesis,” according to a 2022 study published in Nature Partner Journals’ Science of Food.

The study showed mice developed 75% more cancerous tumors in their small intestines and 82% more tumors in their colons when fed the chemical-laden meats than those fed nitrite-free pork, the Guardian reported.

“The results of this new study make the cancer risk associated with nitrite-cured meat even clearer,” Chris Elliott, one of the study authors, told the Guardian. “The everyday consumption of nitrite-containing bacon and ham poses a very real risk to public health.”

In July 2022, France said it would all but eliminate the use of nitrites in food processing. The nitrogen-oxygen compounds are used to preserve meats and give them their pink color, but they have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

The European Food Safety Authority in December 2022 issued a warning about the health concern of nitrites, the Guardian reported, leading Elliott, other scientists, and government officials to call for the United Kingdom to enact a ban.

Rick Mumford, head of Science, Evidence, and Research at the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, said people should limit their consumption of red and processed meats to 70 grams (2.5 ounces) per day.

“Nitrites and nitrates are important preservatives which hinder the growth of harmful organisms, in particular the bacteria responsible for botulism — which can be life-threatening,” he told the Guardian. “They are regulated as a food additive and, before authorisation, must pass a robust safety assessment.”

Eating just one plant-based meal per day can save nearly 200,000 gallons of water, according to Blue Zones. If every American cut their meat and dairy consumption in half, it would be like taking 26 million cars off the road.

An October study showed eating just two servings of red meat per week was linked to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Those who ate the most red meat were most at risk, so cutting back can be a boon to your health no matter your starting point.

It’s also helpful to the planet. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, agriculture-based methane pollution is a key driver of climate change. Over 20 years, methane is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to warming effects — and 32% of human-based methane pollution comes from livestock.

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