New National TV Ad Calls for a Hot Dog Ban in Schools
Provocative Spot Highlights Cancer Risk from Processed Meats; Commercial Airing on Local Network Affiliates in Cities Across the Country; Survey Shows
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Schools should stop serving hot dogs and other processed meats because even small amounts increase the risk of adult cancer, says a provocative new commercial airing on TV stations around the country. The spot is produced by the Cancer Project, an affiliate of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
"Protect Our Kids" (watch the commercial on YouTube) is based on a comprehensive report released late last year by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. After reviewing all existing data on nutrition and cancer risk, scientists concluded that processed meat increases one's risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent for every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily. (A 50-gram serving is approximately the size of a typical hotdog.) The landmark report clearly states that no amount of processed meat is considered safe to eat; it should be completely avoided.
"Cancer risk starts early," says Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Cancer Project. "If we don't protect our kids by removing hot dogs, sausages, and deli slices, and pepperoni from our schools, we're stacking the cards against them. Lifetime cancer risk is already one in three for women and one in two for men. Given the terrible eating habits of so many American children, we're setting them up for even worse odds down the road."
As with tobacco, the cancer risk associated with processed meats seems to increase with long-term exposure, so processed meat consumption that begins in childhood poses a profound concern.
The Cancer Project is currently campaigning to reform the federal Child Nutrition Act, up for renewal in 2009, which determines what foods are served in the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently includes processed meats in the lists of commodity foods available to schools.
A new Cancer Project survey of 29 U.S. school districts shows that many school menus are packed with processed meats. All breakfasts offered in Minneapolis elementary, middle, and high schools, for example, contain sausage and other processed meats. The same is true for all regular breakfasts offered in Philadelphia schools.
Sixty percent of all elementary school breakfasts, 80 percent of all middle school breakfasts, and 80 percent of all high school breakfasts in the Los Angeles Unified School District contain processed meats. Half of all elementary and middle school breakfasts in the Chicago Public Schools offer processed meats, as do 100 percent of its high school meals. Eighty-eight percent of breakfasts in D.C. middle and high schools contain processed meats.
School districts with the most processed meat at lunch include Atlanta, Chicago; Clark County, Nevada; Prince George's County, Maryland; Columbus, Ohio; Hancock, West Virginia; New York City; and Detroit.
Every year, 160,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 50,000 die of it. About half of all cases are already incurable when found. Some of the school districts with the highest rates of processed meat are in states with the highest rates of colorectal cancer. Illinois, for example, has the third highest incidence in the country, and West Virginia the highest.
"Protect Our Kids" is a 30-second spot featuring three young children in an elementary school who describe their lives from the perspective of adults with cancer. The commercial invites the viewer to join the campaign to "get processed meats out of our schools."
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.