Should nitrites in meat products be banned? Another study links the preservatives to bowel cancer

Should nitrites in meat products be banned? Another study links the preservatives to bowel cancer

A leading UK scientist has called for the country to ban the use of nitrites in processed meat, after the publication of a study that adds to the body of evidence showing the additives can increase the risk of cancer.

Professor Chris Elliott, who led the UK government’s review of food systems following the 2013 horsemeat scandal, urged the government to implement a ban on the chemicals, which are used as preservatives.

Earlier this year, the French health agency ANSES confirmed a link between nitrites and nitrates in ham and prawns and the development of colorectal cancer – otherwise known as bowel cancer.

The French government has since begun planning to reduce or phase out nitrites from processed meat in the country.

Elliott, along with colleagues from Queen’s University Belfast, conducted a study of pork consumption in rats over eight weeks.

Mice were given a diet consisting of 15 percent either nitrite-free pork, nitrate-free sausage, or nitrite sausage in the form of a frankfurter.

The mice were compared to a control group that was fed an all-forage diet – a balanced diet consisting mainly of grains.

Rats eating nitrite frankfurters were found to have 53 percent more gastrointestinal tumors than the control group.

The study authors noted that while 15 percent of pork with nitrates in the diet was “a relatively high intake of processed meat,” all previous preclinical trials had used a minimum of 50 percent processed meat in diet.

“This clearly indicates that lower dietary amounts can exacerbate disease,” they wrote.

“Very real risk to public health”

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Europe and one of the leading causes of death.

Many health bodies already advise reducing the risk of developing this cancer by eating a healthy diet and avoiding processed meat and red meat.

The UK NHS recommends that anyone who eats more than 90g of red or processed meat a day should reduce to 70g, which may help reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

Professor Chris Elliott called on the UK government to ban the use of nitrites “as they have already done in France”.

“The results of this new study make the cancer risk associated with nitrite-cured meat even clearer. “The daily consumption of bacon and bacon with nitrite content poses a very real risk to public health,” he said.

Dr Brian Green, another of the report’s authors, said: “The results from our study clearly show that not all processed meats carry the same cancer risk and that consuming processed meats containing nitrites exacerbates the development of cancerous tumors.”

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