February 6, 2023

Risk Expert Says Calls to Stop Serving Processed Meats in schools Should be Rejected

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Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

National Center for Public Policy Research Risk Analysis Director Jeff Stier has released the following statement regarding the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) classification of processed meats as carcinogens and a call for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to remove such meats from school menus: New York, NY –

“The World Health Organization cancer agency alleges that for each 50 grams of processed meats eaten daily, consumers increase their chance of colorectal cancer by 18%. That sounds pretty scary. But even if that were true, and other large studies dispute it, the touted increase in risk is misleading because it is an increase over a low population-wide risk to begin with. There were only 42.4 new cases per 100,000 people, according to the latest federal analysis.

“Without this context, it is easy to pay attention to the ‘18%’ number without understanding context. It’s like saying that living near a NASA facility triples your chances of getting hit by an errant space ship. It may be true, but it doesn’t mean much.

“IARC did not conclude that moderate consumption of processed meats like hot dogs or bacon cause cancer. Yet, the ironically named Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is using the report to call for the USDA to stop serving any processed meats whatsoever because of the alleged cancer risk from unusually high lifetime consumption.

“While one should dismiss the PCRM petition as predictable activism from a vegan advocacy group, they make an argument that might appeal to some at the USDA.

“When, in 2009, the group petitioned the USDA to ban processed meat and poultry from school lunches due to alleged cancer risk, the USDA denied the request due to a lack of ‘consensus documents of the U.S. Government or of the leading world bodies with cancer expertise.’ So now, who could blame PCRM for pointing out the IARC findings?

“What PCRM and their allies won’t tell you is that they IARC did not find an increased risk of cancer from moderate consumption of processed meats. All sorts of naturally-occurring chemicals from healthy fruits and vegetables in our food could be classified as carcinogens. But that doesn’t mean schools should stop serving them since they do not present a cancer risk at normal levels of consumption.

“The USDA should immediately dismiss the PCRM petition and reprimand the group for falsely alleging that moderate consumption of processed meats served in schools pose a cancer threat.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.