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  1. News Release

  2. Sep 12, 2023

‘Wisconsin Department of Health Services: Cancel Your State’s Processed Meat Festivals,’ Says Billboard in Madison

Nearly 1 in 3 Adults in Wisconsin is Obese — 36% More Are Overweight

MADISON, Wis. —  A Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine billboard that was installed this week on Highway 14, north of McCoy Road, in Madison, asks the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to cancel the state’s processed meat festivals. The billboard, located about 2 miles north of Secretary Designee Kirsten Johnson’s office, directs viewers to, which warns of the health risks of consuming processed meat. 

In a complaint filed today with Johnson, the Washington, D.C.-based health advocacy group of 17,000 physicians requested the Wausau Beer & Bacon Fest on Sept. 16, the River Falls Bacon Bash Sept. 22 to Sept. 24, and the Beef-A-Rama in Minocqua on Sept. 30 all be canceled or reimagined with healthy, plant-based fare replacing the processed and other meat products scheduled to be served.

“We are sure you are well aware that processed meat is harmful to health. We believe these festivals perpetuate dangerous messages about it,” wrote Noah Praamsma, a registered dietitian with the Physicians Committee. 

Wisconsin resident and plant-based nutrition expert Elaine Jumes co-signed the complaint. She also reached out to organizers of all three festivals requesting to be a vendor, offering information on the health benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet, along with free food samples.

Jumes received a positive response from Bacon Bash organizers. Should the event go on, she plans to organize a booth providing information and offering a limited number of free samples of whole food, plant-based recipes to festival attendees. She received no response from Beer & Bacon Fest organizers. And organizers of the Beef-A-Rama in Minocqua rejected her offer

“Thanks for your request,” wrote President and CEO of “Let’s Minocqua” Krystal Westfahl. “Unfortunately, we don't have an opportunity for this type of ‘giveaway’ unless you roasted a beef roast as part of our competition, and I have a feeling that doesn't really align with your mission and vision.”

Processed and other meat is the last thing Wisconsinites need. Nearly 1 in 3 adults in Wisconsin has high cholesterol, hypertension, and/or obesity, all leading indicators for the development of heart disease. In addition to the 30% of adults who are obese, 36% are overweight.

The World Health Organization has determined that consuming processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer and has classified it as carcinogenic to humans. Just 50 grams (or approximately 1.5 ounces) of processed meat—a hot dog or a few slices of bacon—consumed daily increases colorectal cancer risk by 18%. The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research say that “there is strong evidence” that consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.

Processed meat isn’t the only culprit when it comes to the promotion of heart disease. Consumption of red meat and poultry also increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers followed meat, poultry, and fish intake for participants across six cohort studies and tracked coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure incidence rates and disease-related mortality. Two or more servings of processed meat, red meat, or poultry incrementally increased the risk for cardiovascular disease, compared with no consumption. Consumption of both processed meat and red meat increased the risk of death from heart disease. 

A plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce overweight and obesity, reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, and reduce the risk of colon cancer. According to a study published in BMC Medicine, men who ate the most plant-based foods had a 22% reduced risk of colon cancer, compared with those who ate the least. Eating more plant foods increases consumption of fiber and antioxidants associated with cancer prevention. It has long been known that people who avoid meat are at reduced risk, and this study adds additional evidence.

“We were thrilled to see your LinkedIn profile aligns with our mission, insomuch as you are ‘energized by challenging conventional processes and implementing change, passionate about health, and [wanting] to make the world a better place,’” Praamsma and Jumes wrote to Johnson. “Who better to join our mission in educating people in Wisconsin about this urgent health crisis — than you — by campaigning to host healthier festivals to benefit all involved?

“How about a Baked Potato fest in Wausau, a Potato Bash in River Falls,” they wrote, “and a Potat-O-Rama in Minocqua?” 

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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