WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee—a nonprofit of 12,000 doctors—is urging newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, M.D., to act on a legal petition to protect veterans from colorectal cancer risk by eliminating processed meats, such as hot dogs and pepperoni, from food service at all VA medical centers, clinics, and other sites of care.
“Veterans Affairs should eliminate processed meats to help those who served our country combat colorectal cancer,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “Evidence shows that banning hot dogs and pepperoni will also help veterans battle cardiovascular disease.”
The petition, submitted to Ellen Bosley, M.B.A., M.S., R.D., the national director of the VA’s Nutrition and Food Services department, sites a substantial body of scientific evidence that attributes the consumption of processed meat to significantly increased cancer risk.
The World Health Organization recently released a report announcing that processed meats are “carcinogenic to humans.” The authors highlighted a meta-analysis that found an 18 percent increased cancer risk per 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily. Researchers also observed associations between red and processed meat products and stomach, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.
Those who consume the most processed meat also have an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a 2009 National Institutes of Health study of more than a half-million people.
The VA operates “America’s largest integrated health care system with over 1,700 sites of care, serving 8.76 million Veterans each year,” according to the Veterans Health Administration, which Sec. Shulkin oversaw in his former position as the VA’s under secretary of health.
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 and medical training.