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Processed Meats Petition Urges USDA to Stop Serving Hot Dogs at School Lunches

boy choosing healthy foodsThe nation celebrated National School Lunch Week last month, but there isn’t much to celebrate about school lunches that increase the risk of cancer. In a petition for rulemaking filed October 9, The Cancer Project seeks to compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop distributing processed meats to the nation’s children because they have been shown to increase the risk of cancer in adulthood.

The Cancer Project’s petition calls on the USDA to stop offering processed meats—such as hot dogs—for purchase, subsidy, and reimbursement under the National School Lunch Program and National School Breakfast Program. The petition asks the USDA to encourage schools that offer processed meats to include alternatives to these products in their menus.

The petition includes declarations of support from several prominent nutrition and cancer experts, including Walter Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “This would be a valuable first step toward encouraging the elimination of processed meat from the diet of all consumers,” Dr. Willett wrote in his declaration.

The USDA petition is based on the findings of a landmark report released last year by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. Based on a review of 58 scientific studies, the report concluded that “processed meat is a convincing cause of colorectal cancer.” According to the report’s authors, the risk increases by 21 percent for every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily. (A 50-gram serving is approximately the size of a typical hot dog.)

“Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer,” says Neal Barnard, M.D., president of The Cancer Project. “With 58 research studies examining the links between processed meats and colorectal cancer, serving these products to children is no longer defensible. The federal government should be encouraging schools to serve healthful foods.”

In addition to Dr. Willett's, declarations of support for The Cancer Project petition have also been signed by cancer researcher Edward Giovannucci, M.D., D.Sc., a professor in the departments of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and an associate professor in the department of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and Lawrence Kushi, D.Sc., associate director for etiology and prevention research, division of research, Kaiser Permanente.

Find out more about the history of The Cancer Project’s Protecting Our Kids from Processed Meats campaign.


PCRM Online, November 2008

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