Jul 3, 2011

MedicalConspiracies- For hot dogs, a push for truthful labels

-------- Original Message --------

Subject: [Health_and_Healing] | For hot dogs, a push for truthful labels
Date: Mon, 4 Jul 2011 10:27:43 +1000
From: justmeint <justmeint@gmail.com>
Reply-To: Health_and_Healing@yahoogroups.com

For hot dogs, a push for truthful labels

Planning on a holiday weenie roast? Don't count on the label to help much. Those pricey "natural" and "organic" hot dogs often contain just as much or more of the cancer-linked preservatives nitrate and nitrite as that old-fashioned wiener.

The New York Times

Don't count on the label to help. Those pricey "natural" and "organic" hot dogs often contain just as much or more of the cancer-linked preservatives, such as nitrates and nitrites, as that old-fashioned wiener.

And almost no one knows it because of arcane federal rules that make the labels on natural and organic hot dogs, luncheon meats and bacon virtually impossible to decipher when it comes to preservatives. That includes meats made from beef, pork, turkey and chicken.

"If you actually surveyed consumers going out of their way to buy no-nitrate products, they'd be very surprised to learn that there's plenty of nitrates in there," said Bruce Aidells, a chef and cookbook author. "It's very misleading."

In a role reversal, food manufacturers are pushing the federal government for more truthful labeling, which would allow them to tell consumers clearly that some products contain nitrate and nitrite, just from natural rather than synthetic sources.

The current rules bizarrely require products that derive the preservatives from natural sources to prominently place the words "Uncured" and "No nitrates or nitrites added" on the label even though they are cured and do contain the chemicals.

"Nitrite is nitrite and consumers should be aware of what they're eating," said Marji McCullough, director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, which recommends that people reduce consumption of processed meats because of studies that link them to colon cancer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it is aware of the labeling problem and may take a fresh look.

Nitrate and nitrite have been used for centuries to cure meat, giving products such as hot dogs, bacon and ham their characteristic flavor and color and killing the bacteria that cause botulism. Today, conventional meatpackers typically use a synthesized version known as sodium nitrite.

But companies that label their products natural or organic must use natural sources of the preservatives. They usually use celery powder or celery juice, which are high in nitrate. A bacterial culture is used to convert that to nitrite.

The resulting chemicals are virtually identical to their synthetic cousins. When the products are packaged, conventional and natural products contain residual amounts.

A study published this year in the Journal of Food Protection found that natural hot dogs had from one-half to 10 times the amount of nitrite that conventional hot dogs contained. Natural bacon had from about one-third as much nitrite as a conventional brand to more than twice as much.

The current USDA labeling rules require natural products to indicate there may be naturally occurring nitrate or nitrite, but it often appears in small print. When combined with the more prominently displayed "No nitrates or nitrites added" banner, many consumers are left scratching their heads.

"The most consistent feedback we get is, 'I don't understand what that means,' " said Linda Boardman, president of Applegate Farms, the leading brand of natural and organic processed meats. "It's confusing and it's not adding anything to the consumer decision-making process."

Consumer advocates agree the problem does not lie with the meat companies. "We see the problem lying squarely with USDA," said Urvashi Rangan, technical policy director of Consumers Union.

Since the 1970s, concerns about the health effects of nitrate and nitrite have focused on the potential for nitrite to combine with meat protein to form carcinogenic substances called nitrosamines.

The USDA responded by limiting the amount of nitrate and nitrite that goes into processed meats, and today they contain far less than they did 40 years ago.

But since the health concerns emerged, scientists have revolutionized their understanding of the role of nitrate and nitrite in human health and discovered they have benefits, for example, in the healthful functioning of the cardiovascular and immune systems.

But many scientists say the evidence of health risks remains convincing. While the occasional hot dog or bacon is probably OK, they point out that high levels of salt and saturated fat in processed meats also contribute to health problems.

"What's very clear is that consuming processed meats is related to higher risk of diabetes, heart attacks and colon cancer," said Dr. Walter Willet, chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health.






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