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  1. News Release

  2. Nov 29, 2018

Hard-Hitting Billboards Target #HazardousHotDogs at Boston Children’s Hospital

Doctors File Complaint to Protect Patients from Choking and Cancer Risk

BOSTON—Two billboards near Boston Logan International Airport display hard-hitting advertisements urging local hospitals, including Boston Children’s Hospital, to protect patients from #HazardousHotDogs. Hot dogs should not be served to patients because they are the No. 1 choking risk for children, and processed meats, including hot dogs, can increase risk of colorectal cancer. 

The billboards were installed week of Nov. 26 and will remain posted until Dec. 10. One billboard is located at the Sumner Tunnel entrance, near Logan Airport, facing east, and it is about 19 feet high and 48 feet long. The other is on Route 1A, near Logan Airport, close to the tunnel to Boston, facing north, and it is about 14 feet high and 48 feet long. 

The billboards are sponsored by the Physicians Committee—a nonprofit of 12,000 doctors, including 1,707 physician members in Massachusetts. The doctors’ group is urging Boston Children’s Hospital to eliminate hot dogs from patient menus by March, which is colorectal cancer awareness month.   

The Physicians Committee also filed a complaint Nov. 28 with Monica Valdes Lupi, J.D., M.P.H., executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. The complaint notifies Ms. Lupi that the American Medical Association (AMA) has recently issued a policy calling on hospitals to “eliminate” hot dogs and other processed meats.

“We are launching this public health initiative to persuade Boston Children’s Hospital to protect patients from #HazardousHotDogs,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “The hospital can become a leader in preventing diet-related diseases by promoting healthful, plant-based meals that are popular with patients—like veggie chili and fruit smoothies.” 

The billboards near Logan Airport feature a photograph of a girl holding a hot dog with the words “Choking Risk Now, Cancer Risk Later?” Viewers are urged to “Ask your local hospital to protect patients from #HazardousHotDogs!” People who visit can sign a letter to the CEOs of hospitals that offer hot dogs to patients, including Boston Children’s Hospital.   

The doctors’ complaint to the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission highlights a recent report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund. The report analyzes global research and finds that “… hot dogs and other processed meats increase risk of colorectal cancer, eating more whole grains and being physically active lowers risk.” 

The World Health Organization warns that processed meats, including  hot dogs, are “carcinogenic to humans” and there is no amount safe for consumption. WHO explains that its assessment is “…based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” A recent study published in JAMA Surgery finds that colon cancer is increasing in young people (ages 20 to 34 years). These cancer-causing foods should be replaced with healthful, plant-based options. 

According to the Boston Globe, Tufts Medical Center stopped serving hot dogs in 2017 when the cancer risk became clearer. Other hospitals that have recently eliminated hot dogs from patient menus include Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Kentucky Children’s Hospital, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and Batson Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center 

Patients and health care providers are often concerned that healthful foods are more expensive, but St. Joseph Health System in Sonoma County, Calif., reports, “Vegetarian entrées cost about 50 percent less than meat entrées.” The hospital projects saving $5,000 a year by serving more meat-free meals. A recent study published in Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition finds that omnivores can save $750 a year by simply switching to a plant-based diet. 

Media Contact

Jeanne Stuart McVey


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.

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