CSPI Urges USDA for Warning Labels On Meat

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Warning Labels

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), packages of bacon, ham, hotdogs and other processed meat and poultry products should contain a warning label to inform consumers of its association with cancer.

On December 1, 2016, CSPI filed a petition with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) in request of a warning label for foods that are linked with an increased risk of colon cancer and colorectal cancer.

In the petition, CSPI cites findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which in 2015 concluded that processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans.”

“The IARC, ACS [American Cancer Society], and the World Cancer Research Fund all cite research that found about an 18% increased risk of colorectal cancer for every 50 g of processed meat consumed daily,” said CSPI in a press release.

For all meat and poultry products that are preserved by curing, salting, smoking and/or the addition of chemical preservatives, the CSPI is asking the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which has the authority to require the labels under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, to add the message:

“USDA WARNING: Frequent consumption of processed meat products may increase your risk of developing cancer of the colon and rectum. To protect your health, limit consumption of such products.”

“Consumers deserve these warning labels to help them make informed choices about the foods they eat,” said Michael Jacobson, CSPI executive director. “Consumers who want to reduce their cancer risk may avoid processed meats or eat them much less often; other people may simply ignore the label. But without question, USDA should give people that choice.”

In a response released the same day as CSPI petition, the North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter found the same study to be flawed.

“An alarmist, sensational petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today seeking warning labels on safe, nutritious and USDA-inspected meat products is the most recent example of the scare tactics that have earned the group the nickname ‘the food police,’” said Carpenter in a press release. “The petition ignores numerous studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer and many more studies showing the many health benefits of balanced diets that include meat. Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer vote that CSPI cited as evidence — a vote that was not unanimous — is taken badly out of context. After the vote, the WHO worked to reassure consumers saying there were ‘shortcomings’ with IARC’s classifications which allowed the results to be ‘misinterpreted.’”

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 12/19/16