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Chemicals in ham and sausages that may cause colon cancer.

Can processed meat chemicals cause cancer?

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) has established that the use of nitrates in goods like ham and sausage can increase the risk of colon cancer, which may come as a shock to those who love processed meat. The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) has proven that the use of nitrates in processed meat products like ham and sausage increased the risk of colon cancer.

Chemicals used in the processing of meat

To increase the shelf life, flavour, and pink colour of processed and cured meats, nitrates and nitrites, a form of salt, are added. When coupled with oxygen, nitrates become nitrates. In 2015, a World Health Organization report classified processed meat as carcinogenic because curing — by adding nitrates or nitrites or by smoking — can lead to the formation of potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

Link between additives and cancer

By declaring that ‘more than half of exposure to nitrites originates from the eating of charcuterie, because of the chemicals used in its preparation,’ the ANSES has proven a connection between these additives and the risk of colon cancer, commonly known as bowel cancer. A branch of cooking specialised to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, and terrines is known as charcuterie in French.

Limit your intake

The French health service encourages customers to “eat a diversified and balanced diet, including at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day” and “limit their consumption of charcuterie to 150 grammes per week” in order to reduce their exposure to nitrates and nitrites. Our daily diet exposes us to nitrites and nitrates, the FDA claimed in a statement. ‘Given the existing understanding of these compounds’ effects on human health, ANSES advises lowering the population’s exposure to these substances by actively limiting dietary exposure.” The risk of colorectal cancer in the population increases, per ANSES, with increasing exposure to nitrites and nitrates. The results also supported “the existence of a link between the risk of colorectal cancer and exposure to nitrites and/or nitrates, whether taken through the consumption of processed meat or drinking water,’ according to the study.


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