French health authorities confirm: there is a link between charcuterie and colon cancer

The country’s government announced that an action plan will be developed to reduce the use of food additives such as nitrates and nitrites.

France is known worldwide as one of the countries that most produce and appreciate the art of charcuterie, but this branch of the food industry is now being shaken by a new study, which confirms the relationship between nitrates added to processed meats and colon cancer.

The results of the investigation were published in a report by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Work Safety (Anses), published this Tuesday. In the document, the organization states that the reduction of nitrates in the production of this type of food could result in a greater risk of contracting diseases such as botulism, listeria or salmonella. Even so, he clarifies, the potential risks can be minimized by adopting measures that dispense with the use of nitrates, generally used to inhibit the proliferation of bacteria and prolong the shelf life of food.

These measures would be “adapted to each product category”, according to their specificities. In the case of cooked ham, for example, reducing the shelf life would suffice; as for dry-cured ham, a more complex manufacturing process would be required, which could involve “strict control of salt levels and temperature during the salting, resting and curing phases of the product”. Whatever the alternatives to be implemented, Anses is incisive and recommends “reducing the consumption of nitrates and nitrites, through a deliberate limitation of exposure” to these chemicals.

“It is necessary to limit the use to what is strictly necessary”corroborate the French Ministers of Health and Agriculture, in a joint statement. “The reduction must be done in a balanced way, with the guarantee of food safety for the consumer”.

The country’s government also announced that an action plan to reduce the use of food additives will be developed and inaugurated later this year.

The results of the study conducted by Anses, although alarming, are not unprecedented. In 2015, one study of the World Health Organization considered that red or processed meat should be classified as group 1 carcinogens, in the same category as tobacco and asbestos. The researchers concluded that daily consumption of a 100-gram portion of red meat increased the risk of colon cancer by 17%, while a 50-gram portion of processed meat caused an increase of about 18%.

“Individuals concerned about cancer should consider reducing their consumption of red meat or processed meats until updated, cancer-specific guidelines are developed,” WHO concluded.

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