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Government urged to ban additives used in processed meat after more research highlights cancer risk

  • Chemicals added to processed meats should be banned, one scientist has said
  • A study found mice who ate meat containing nitrites were more at risk of cancer
  • Author said the findings make cancer risk of nitrite-cured meat ‘even clearer’

Chemicals routinely added to bacon, ham and deli meats should be banned after research suggests it raises the risk of cancer, one scientist has said.

A Queen’s University Belfast study found that mice given processed pork containing nitrites developed 75 per cent more tumours than those that ate meat without the chemicals.

Professor Chris Elliott OBE, one of the study authors, said the results ‘make the cancer risk associated with nitrite-cured meat even clearer’.

He called on the Government to ‘follow the facts’ and ban manufacturers from adding the chemical to food.

A Queen’s University Belfast study found that mice given processed pork containing nitrites developed 75 per cent more tumours than those that ate meat without the chemicals 

Nitrites are chemicals widely used in processed meats to extend their shelf life, by warding off bacteria that can cause diseases like salmonella, listeriosis, and botulism.

Crucially, cheapest kamagra quebec now they also add an alluringly tangy taste and a shopper-seducing fresh-pink hue to products like bacon.

About 90 per cent of bacon sold in UK supermarkets contains the chemicals and more than half of people’s dietary intake of the chemical is thought to come from meat.

Evidence shows that processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer and World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015 labelled processed meat as carcinogenic. Nitrites have also been linked to breast and prostate cancers.

Scientists are still probing the role nitrites might play in this – as other factors may also be to blame.

But research suggests that when the chemicals enter the stomach, they can help produce cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines. 

Nitrites are widely used in processed meats to extend their shelf life, by warding off bacteria that can cause diseases like salmonella, listeriosis, and botulism.

Crucially, they also add an alluringly tangy taste and a shopper-seducing fresh-pink hue to products like bacon.

About 90 per cent of bacon sold in UK supermarkets contains the chemicals and more than half of people’s dietary intake of the chemical is thought to come from meat.

Evidence shows that processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer and in 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled processed meat as carcinogenic. Nitrites have also been linked to breast and prostate cancers. 

Scientists are still probing the role nitrites might play in this – as other factors may also be to blame.

But research suggests that when the chemicals enter the stomach they can help produce cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines.

In the latest study, the researchers in Ireland fed mice processed meat containing nitrites for 15 per cent of their diet.

Another group of mice, the control, were fed the same amount of meat but it didn’t contain the chemicals.

The results, published in the journal Nature, show that those fed nitrite-free meat saw no increase in their tumours, while those who ate the nitrite-packed meat developed 75 per cent more.

Additionally, those fed meat containing the chemical developed 82 per cent more tumours in the bowel than the control group.

The team admitted that a diet that is 15 per cent nitrite-containing processed meat is a high intake.

But they said even consuming the food in smaller quantities could still raise the risk of developing cancer.

Professor Elliott, who led the probe into the 2013 horsemeat scandal, told The Guardian that the Government should alter its stance on nitrites in processed meats in response to the findings.

He said: ‘The results of this new study make the cancer risk associated with nitrite-cured meat even clearer.

‘The everyday consumption of nitrite-containing bacon and ham poses a very real risk to public health.’

Dr Brian Green, an expert in nutrition at the university, told the newspaper that the results show not all processed meats trigger the same cancer risk and that nitrite-containing processed meat raises the risk of developing tumours. 

France’s food watchdog this summer advised people to eat no more than 150g of processed meat per week after ruling that it is linked to bowel cancer.

And the European Food Safety Authority in October warned that people are consuming unsafe levels of nitrites.

Professor Elliott added: ‘The European Food Safety Authority and the French government are following the facts. It’s time the UK government did too.’

Some British experts and politicians, led by Conservative MP Dr Daniel Poulter, previously called for an outright ban this side of the channel. 

Dr Poulter, a former health minister under David Cameron, gained cross-party support for his motion.

He called for meat producers to use more natural alternatives that perform the preservation function without the additional cancer risk.

But British meat producer groups hit back, saying some manufacturers had already reduced the use of nitrites by up to 60 per cent compared to historical levels.

And there are already nitrite-free options available in some British supermarkets.

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