Category Archives: Carcinogens

The world mourns an obsession. Bacon causes cancer

BaconAre you obsessed with bacon? Does the thought of it immediately bring a smile to your face? Does the smell of bacon mean that you immediately have to eat some? Is the new bacon-scented candle being marketed by the world’s most popular candle manufacturer sitting on top of your holiday gift list? If you are among the millions of people worldwide who are enthralled with bacon, the news you’ve seen all over the internet this week is not welcome in your world. Bacon causes cancer.

Pigging out will kill you, the World Health Organization said Monday — warning that bacon, sausage and other processed meats are now in the same category of cancer risk as smoking cigarettes and inhaling asbestos.

Hot dogs, ham, corned beef and almost every other salted, cured or smoked delicacy have been officially classified as “carcinogenic to humans” — and red meat as “probably carcinogenic” — based on a study by 22 scientists from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

Experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” said Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Program. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

The experts scoured through more than 800 studies from several continents and found that red meat and processed meat — containing nitrites or other chemicals to help preserve it — can ultimately cause multiple forms of cancer, including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, the WHO reported.

Their findings ultimately showed a 17 percent increased risk of cancer from eating 3.5 ounces per day of red meat and an 18 percent increase per 1.7 ounces per day of processed meat.

The report didn’t sit well with Big Apple bacon-lovers.

“I would die if I couldn’t eat bacon, it’s so delicious!” said Chris Chriswell, owner of Swine, a restaurant in Greenwich Village that has become a proverbial hog heaven among meat-crazed New Yorkers.

“We’re going to continue serving bacon,” he said, adding that one of their crowd favorites is a brunch dish called the Flying Pig, which comes with a flight of four different types of bacon, including lamb, jowl, applewood and maple-glazed smoked.

“Every few years the consensus seems to shift,” Chriswell explained. “If anything causes cancer, it’s up to people to listen to what science says and decide on their own. We aren’t going to force anybody to eat bacon.”

Swine exec chef Oriana Rivadeneira blasted the report as hogwash.

“I’ve never heard of someone dying because of bacon,” she quipped. “Everything always causes cancer all the time. My family are the biggest pork and meat eaters and my grandmother passed away at 101 years old. She lived for so long and she was the biggest pork eater.”

Jason Woolfolk, a general manager at Pork Slope, a roadhouse-inspired barbecue joint in Brooklyn, doesn’t think the WHO report will hurt business.

“We are definitely not going to stop serving bacon anytime soon,” he said. “This place is built for people’s cheat day. No one is going stop eating it, that’s for sure.”

Marc Perez, a butcher at Casablanca Meat Market in East Harlem who is also the son of longtime owner, Louis Perez, doesn’t think the WHO report will hurt business.

“Bacon is like gospel to people these days,” he said. “The average New Yorker who is the same person who goes out at night and has a few drinks, enjoy themselves, and then has to do a few extra miles on the treadmill, so I don’t think it will have an effect.” can hear the hearts of bacon lovers breaking all over the world. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint – the processed meat/cancer discussion seems to go back and forth over time. During one decade, bacon causes cancer; during another, it doesn’t. Sadly for bacon lovers, this happens to be a negative decade for their fondest food obsession. Whether or not it makes sense from a health perspective, we’re fairly confident that the world is not about to see any major negative impact on bacon consumption from this important news.

Are there mold toxins in your oatmeal?

main-jpgIt’s been a cold few months throughout the United States. When our days start with freezing temperatures and we’re experiencing almost weekly snowfalls, knows that many of us are turning to a nice bowl of hot oatmeal to warm us up before we go out into the elements. And why not? It’s a very healthy choice. But there may be something impeding the health benefits of our favorite winter breakfast.

Oats are an excellent source of manganese, copper, biotin, vitamin B1, magnesium, dietary fiber, chromium, zinc, and protein. Oats are known for their antioxidant compounds help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Ochratoxin A (OTA) has been found in all major cereal grains including oat, wheat, and barley worldwide and considered as a potential concern in food safety.

Dojin Ryu and Hyun Jung Lee, School of Food Science, University of Idaho, note that OTA is one of the most common toxic products released by molds in the world.

OTA has been found in a very wide range of raw and processed food commodities. It was first reported in cereals, but has since been found in other products, including coffee, dried fruits, wine, beer, cocoa, nuts, beans, peas, bread and rice. It has also been detected in meat, especially pork and poultry, following transfer from contaminated feed.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified OTA as a possible human carcinogen (group 2B). OTA is a potent toxic agent and causes both acute and chronic effects in the kidneys of all mammalian species tested. The sensitivity of different species varies, but a level of 200 μg/kg in feed over three months is sufficient to cause acute damage to the kidneys of pigs and rats.

The USA does not regulate the contaminant; the European Union has set maximum limits for OTA in food. Ryu and Lee wanted to see how US breakfast cereals; a staple in many Americans’ diets, measured up to that standard.

The researchers collected a total of 489 samples of corn, rice, wheat, and oat-based breakfast cereal from US retail marketplaces over a two year period. Researchers used a high-performance liquid chromatography ( a technique used to separate the components in a mixture, to identify each component, and to quantify each component) to determine the levels of OTA.

Overall, 205 samples 42 percent were contaminated with OTA in the range from 0.10 to 9.30 ng/g. The levels OTA were mostly below of the European Commission Regulation (3 ng/g) except in 16 samples of oat-based cereals.

The highest level of OTA was highest in oat-based breakfast cereals (70 percent, 142/203), followed by wheat-based (32 percent, 38/117), corn-based (15 percent, 15/103), and rice-based breakfast cereals (15 percent, 10/66).

“On the basis of the incidence and concentration of OTA, oats and oat-based products may need greater attention in further surveillance programs and development of intervention strategies to reduce health risks in consumers,” the researchers wrote.

The authors acknowledge funding from the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Lakshmi Gompa was a graduate student working in the laboratory of Dr. Andreia Bianchin, University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 2013. In a study that year, she examined OTA in commodities such as, roasted coffee, cocoa and meat in the US Market.

Among different samples analyzed 35 percent of cocoa samples and three percent of meat samples were contaminated with OTA. Decaffeinated coffee samples showed the highest level at 16.7 percent. OTA levels in dried raisins and dates had high levels at 100 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

We’ll stay on top of this one. This new problem with our food supply does seem to be affecting many different products that we normally include in our diets, with oats and oat-based products being the newest to be affected. Oatmeal is a healthy, hot breakfast, but there are other grain choices we can turn to. While we’re waiting on more information, we can look for spelt, kamut and wheat based hot cereals. There are organic brands featuring other grains that will keep us just as warm and ready for the cold.

Attention cola fans: caramel color may put you at risk for cancer has had a lot to say about caramel color over the years. The artificial color is quite high on our avoid list for several important reasons. Caramel color can decrease the body’s immune response. People with gluten sensitivities or Celiac disease can experience an allergic reaction to caramel color. It can raise blood pressure. And it has been linked to cancer. There are four types of caramel color and two of the most common types have been proven especially harmful. The problem is that consumers can’t identify the type of caramel color used in any product because manufacturers aren’t required to identify it on ingredient lists. While caramel color is used in thousands of products, sodas are the most common place you’ll find the ingredient.

Thousands of Americans drink soda every day and these individuals do not just increase their sugar intake and their odds of packing unnecessary weight. They also put themselves at risk of developing cancer.

The ingredients of colas and other soft drinks typically include a caramel coloring, which gives these beverages their distinct caramel color.

Unfortunately, some types of this food coloring contain a chemical known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), a potential carcinogen.

Now, an analysis published in the journal PLOS ONE on Feb. 18 has revealed that more than half of Americans between 6 and 64 years old sip amounts of soft drinks per day that could expose them to amounts of 4-MeI that could raise their risks of developing cancer.

Keeve Nachman, from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and colleagues looked at a previous study conducted by researchers from the Consumer Reports that analyzed the concentration of 4-Mel in 12 brands of sodas and soft drink. They also analyzed the soft drinks consumption in the U.S. using data from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) to estimate the potential cancer risks of soft drinks consumption.

The researchers found that the average soda consumption in the U.S. ranges from a little over 12-ounces(1 can) to almost two and a half cans of soda per day with the biggest consumers being those between 16 and 44 years old. Children between 3 to 5 years old were likewise found to drink soft drinks on a typical day averaging about two thirds of a can.

The researchers said that at the rate at which Americans consume soda, they expect the emergence of between 76 to 5,000 cancer cases in the U.S. over the next seven decades that can be attributed to exposure to 4-MeI alone.
“It appears that 4-MeI exposures associated with average rates of soft drink consumption pose excess cancer risks exceeding one case per 1,000,000 exposed individuals, which is a common acceptable risk goal used by some U.S. federal regulatory agencies,” the researchers wrote.

Nachman said that soft drink consumers get exposed to unwanted and avoidable cancer risks from an ingredient that is added to beverages and other foods for aesthetic purposes and this raises concerns on the continued use of caramel coloring in sodas. The Food and Drug Administration said that it will take a closer look at the use of this artificial coloring in a variety of foods.

Soda is unnecessary in any diet. Skipping the sugar and calories in sugared sodas and the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, the ingredient lists are laden with chemicals. Caramel color is one of the most popular chemicals in those ingredient lists. Watch for it — not only in sodas, but in a variety of other foods and beverages as well.

Caramel coloring back under FDA scrutiny

Consumers may associate the term caramel coloring on an ingredient label with the caramel they may make themselves in their kitchens by cooking down sugar in a pot on their stoves. It’s not the same thing. Caramel coloring is an artificial food coloring that lends a brown hue to the foods and beverages in which it is included. It’s commonly found in colas and other dark-colored sodas like root beer, but it’s also included in a variety of different food products. It’s a controversial ingredient and it’s more than a little complicated.

For years, caramel coloring has been debated as a possible carcinogen. The FDA now says it is taking a new look at caramel coloring after Consumer Reports said it found higher than expected levels of a potentially cancer-causing agent in some sodas.

The group said its tests of soft drinks using caramel coloring show some contain higher-than-necessary levels of a compound called 4-methylimidazole or 4-MEI.

The FDA says there’s no evidence the compound is unsafe as used, but a spokeswoman said the agency would look closer after the Consumer Reports complaints.

“The FDA has studied the use of caramel as a flavor and as a color additive in foods for decades,” the agency said in a statement. It said it would test a variety of foods, including sodas, for 4-MEI, but added, “Currently, the FDA has no reason to believe that 4-MEI, at the levels expected in food from the use of caramel colors, poses a health risk to consumers.”
But California does classify the chemical as a possible carcinogen and Consumer Reports says its tests of certain sodas showed higher than allowed levels in some bought in California.
And it says companies should remove the chemical if there’s any doubt.

“This is about coloring food brown,” Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist who heads Consumer Reports’ food safety and sustainability center, said in a telephone interview. “We think of this as an unnecessary risk. It’s a food additive — we should know that it is safe.”

And Pepsi, maker of some of the drinks Consumers Reports tested, says the consumer group is mistaken.

“We have serious questions about Consumer Response’s conclusion,” Pepsi spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said in an email.

She said the soft drink maker had lowered levels of 4-MEI in its products. “PepsiCo abides by the law everywhere we do business. When the regulatory requirements changed in California, PepsiCo moved immediately to meet the new requirements in California. We also decided to voluntarily apply those same standards in the rest of the country, and we are on track to complete that rollout by February 2014,” she said.

Pepsi also questioned how Consumer Reports decided that some soft drinks exceeded the limits set by California.

The group said other brands of soft drink appeared to have lowered their levels of 4-MEI to acceptable ranges.

Rangan said she did not know whether the re-formulated drinks were safer, but she was glad the levels of 4-MEI were reduced.

“How they are tweaking that formulation, we don’t know,” she said. “Are they doing something else? We don’t know. We are not privy to that information,” she added. “We don’t even know which caramel coloring they are using, exactly.”

That’s because there are four different types of caramel coloring: plain caramel, a type that reacts sugar with sulfites, a type that reacts sugars with ammonium and one that reacts sugars with both ammonium and sulfites (that’s the one used in most sodas). The last two types are considered the most controversial. Both of these contain the known carcinogens 2-MEI and 4-MEI. But manufacturers aren’t required to list which type they are using in any product. has never understood how potentially cancer causing chemicals are allowed in our food supply. We are well aware that soda is not the only product category containing caramel color. Suggesting that avoiding the ingredient is as simple as avoiding darker-hued sodas like cola just doesn’t tell the whole story. This is absolutely an ingredient that deserves further scrutiny from the FDA. We believe in transparency in our food supply. The fact that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose the type of caramel coloring they are using doesn’t sit well with us and it shouldn’t make consumers happy either. If we can’t achieve a ban for the more dangerous types of the ingredient, we should at least be made aware of the specific content of the coloring used.

High levels of carcinogen in Pepsi has always maintained that we can all find better beverages than soda. There are, in fact, beverages that don’t contain phosphoric acid or sodium benzoate or high fructose corn syrup or aspartame, or any of the other ingredients we find so disturbing that show up in soda ingredient lists. Caramel color is a controversial ingredient that you’ll find listed in cola ingredient lists (as well as any number of products in a variety of food and beverage categories). It’s an ingredient that should convince all of us to stay away from cola sodas all by itself.

There are four different types of caramel coloring – plain caramel, a type that reacts sugar with sulfites, a type that reacts sugars with ammonium and one that reacts sugars with both ammonium and sulfites (that’s the one used in most colas). Caramel coloring has been linked to raising blood pressure, possibly having a negative effect on the immune system and, most disturbingly, containing carcinogenic byproducts. And that’s what’s put it – and Pepsi — in the news.

Information has been released showing that currently the levels of 4-Mehtylimidazole (4-MEI) levels in Pepsi are anywhere from four to more than eight times higher than the California safety level in samples tested from ten different states. The independent testing was commissioned by the Center of Environmental Health. While the test results were actually an improvement from the levels found in Pepsi a year ago, the levels are still cause for concern.

Pepsi has responded to the Center of Environmental Health explaining that its caramel coloring suppliers have been working on the process of modifying the manufacturing process to reduce the amount of 4-MEI found in its soda. They are looking at February of 2014 as the date that the modified caramel coloring will be included in its products throughout the United States.

4-MEI is a chemical byproduct of the industrial production of caramel coloring. Last year a National Toxicology Program animal study found “clear evidence” that the chemical is a carcinogen. In response to those findings, California passed a law requiring soda manufacturers to include the cancer-causing ingredient on their labels. It was at that time that both Coke and Pepsi pledged to have their caramel coloring suppliers reformulate the ingredient they use in their sodas. The Center of Environmental Health’s recent testing found that Coca-Cola did a much better job of cleaning up their act than Pepsi.

While both have since posted improvements in the state of California, which means their levels of 4-MEI are now below California’s legal levels, CEH claims Pepsi still trails in other key markets around the U.S.

Most soda is a chemical concoction. There’s nothing nutritionally valuable about it. Some of the ingredients included in it are harsh enough to be used as cleaning agents. We’ve recently blogged about people who have only included soda in their diets for years having negative heart responses that cleared completely when they stopped drinking cola. The type of caramel coloring used in colas has now been linked fairly clearly with cancer. This particular testing information from the Center of Environmental Health is one more reason to stay away from cola. believes that it is our own nutritional awareness that will keep us safe and healthy as continue to focus on what’s really in our food and drink.

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