It’s enough to turn your stomach. The tale of an industry so committed to putting profits before people that it’s willing to literally feed us food so hazardous it isn’t even fit for humans to eat.
The meat industry (and make no mistake about it, it IS an industry and not some collection of cheerful mom and pop farms like they’d like you to believe) is feeding us creepy, cancer causing chemicals with every single bite of processed meat we swallow.
Step away from that sandwich!
Bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs, ham, bacon, pepperoni, beef jerky, sausage even those little meatballs floating around in your favorite canned soup… if it’s a processed meat it’s practically guaranteed to be swimming in added sodium nitrites.
Big Food loves the stuff, it makes their meat products last longer and look better. They use the toxin to make pale, flesh-colored meats a bright and rosy red color to appeal to consumers as they walk down the meat aisle in their local grocery store.
Of course the meat industry wants us to believe that sodium nitrite is just a simple “salt,” and that it’s harmless as a fluffy kitten. They’ve even claimed that since the sodium nitrites they’re dumping into meat occur in small amounts in nature they’re “natural” so, you see, there’s really no need to worry.
Arsenic is “natural” too, but dumping it into our food supply would poison us.
But the meat industry’s most outrageous move of all, however, may be to refer to sodium nitrate as an “antioxidant,” appearing to imply it’s some kind of health food.1,2
Sodium nitrite IS carcinogenic
Well let’s set the record straight; sodium nitrite is carcinogenic.
Even the FDA doesn’t exactly deny that. In fact, despite the heavy influence of Big Food the agency begrudgingly admits nitrite content is concerning since it can react with other nitrogen containing compounds leading to cancer causing nitrosamines.3
(More on nitrosamines a bit later.)
They simply don’t deem it too dangerous, recognizing it as generally safe to eat as long as we don’t swallow too much, limiting “…the amount of sodium nitrite to not more than 200 parts per million in the finished meat product.”4
But the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) doesn’t agree, they say to avoid processed meats.
In fact, in 2007 the WCRF reported that eating a lot of red and processed meats increases your risk of colon cancer.5,6
And the WCRF ought to know since it has now completed a comprehensive review of more than 9,000 studies exploring the links between what we eat and cancer.7 And their findings make it perfectly clear that processed meats aren’t fit for humans to be eating.
The WCRF stops just short of saying directly that eating processed meats will raise your cancer risk, they simply say don’t eat them.8
But the data speaks for itself, eating sodium nitrite laced processed meats WILL increase your cancer risk.
Processed meats aren’t fit to eat
For example, the 2005 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The large, seven year long, cohort study of 215,000 men and women was designed to explore the risk factors for pancreatic cancer.
The researchers concluded that the “strongest risk factor was processed meat consumption.” In fact, processed meat could send your risk of pancreatic cancer soaring by nearly 70 percent, according to the study.9
And then there’s the 2011 study published in the journal PLoS One that found that eating just 50 grams of processed meat a day could shoot your colorectal cancer risk up by a shocking 21 percent.10
And those are just two of the studies that have, unsurprisingly, found a link between processed meats and cancer.
In fact, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) finally announced in October of this year that processed meat IS carcinogenic to humans.11,12,13
The science behind the sodium nitrite and cancer connection is complex, but it can essentially be boiled down to those nitrosamines mentioned earlier. Nitrosamines are potent chemical compounds that cause cancer cells to form… and form more rapidly… in the body. Sodium nitrites are pre-cursors—or lead to—nitrosamines forming.
In other words, processed meat isn’t fit for human consumption.
And yet the FDA and the USDA still refuse to acknowledge that we’re essentially being poisoned by the meat industry. After all, meat is big business and neither agency is known for taking a stand against their deep-pocketed friends in Big Food, or being above their influence.
In fact the last time the USDA tried to take a stand on the subject was way back in the late 1970s.
In 1978 the U.S. Assistant Agriculture Secretary for Food and Consumer Services ordered that nitrites in bacon should be reduced because of their suspected connection to cancer (an animal study had connected them to lymphatic cancer), but her wrist was soon slapped. The meat industry sued… claiming higher costs and food poisoning dangers… and they won.
Stay safe and avoid cancer by being an Informed Consumer
It’s clear that we can’t rely on our government to protect us here. When it comes to dangerous food additives, Big Food is still calling the shots. But you can protect yourself and those you love by being an informed consumer.
Informed Consumer Move #1:
Be on the lookout for sodium nitrite on food labels. If you see it on the label, leave it on the shelf.
Informed Consumer Move #2:
Avoid processed meats whenever possible. Choose fresh meats instead and look for labels specifically marked as no added nitrites.
Informed Consumer Move #3:
Load up on cancer-fighting foods including lots of fruits and vegetables like broccoli, apples and plums as well as foods rich in anti-cancer nutrients such as quercetin and resveratrol.
You’ll find quercetin in…
|green leafy vegetables|
|black and green teas|
And resveratrol rich foods include…