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  1. News Release

  2. May 16, 2023

North Carolina Pediatrician and Other Medical Experts Urge School District to Shut Down “Pig Rig” Smoker

Burke County Campaign Included Expert Testimony and Mobile Billboard

MORGANTON, N.C. — Experts from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C.-based national health advocacy organization, joined a North Carolina pediatrician in speaking at Burke County Public Schools board meeting on Monday to urge officials there to stop serving students smoked meat cooked on a mobile propane grill.

The Morganton district debuted the $33,000 smoker, dubbed the “Pig Rig” by students, on Feb. 7, 2023. 

A mobile billboard with the message “Shut Down the Pig Rig!” directed toward Superintendent Mike Swan spent the day circling Burke County.  

Joseph Barrocas, MD, a pediatrician from Huntersville, N.C., spoke about childhood obesity and the connections between a healthy diet and children’s academic performance. Roxie Becker, MBChB, a medical doctor with the Physicians Committee, talked about the health dangers of eating smoked meat. And Physicians Committee Nutrition Education Coordinator Noah Praamsma, MS, RDN, described ways schools can create healthy food options that students will enjoy. 

“Good childhood nutrition is paramount, not only because poor nutrition causes many chronic diseases in childhood, but also because it cements eating habits that children will carry with them into adulthood and pass on to their own children,” said Dr. Becker. “Processed meat in particular is extremely detrimental to our children’s health. Along with ham, bacon, and hot dogs, smoked chicken, beef, and pork are all types of processed meat. The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as a group 1 carcinogen. That’s the same category as asbestos and tobacco,” she said. “So if you wouldn’t smoke around children, or have them learn in classrooms built using asbestos, why would you feed them processed meat?”

The National Cancer Institute warns that cooking meat (including beef, pork, fish, and poultry) over high heat, or by smoking it, creates dangerous heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These two carcinogens can cause changes in DNA that increase the risk of cancer. 

For an interview with any of the three experts, please contact Kim Kilbride at 202-717-8665 or kkilbride [at] (kkilbride[at]pcrm[dot]org)

Media Contact

Kim Kilbride



Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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