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Posted at 02:49 PM ET, 07/28/2011

Billboard warns hot dogs are as risky as cigarettes; Meat industry disagrees


The image used on the PCRM’s billboard. (PCRM)
Firing up the barbecue can be as dangerous as lighting a cigarette, according to a new billboard which reads, “Warning: Hot dogs can wreck your health.”

This statement, along with a photograph of hot dogs in a cigarette pack, currently stands near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where 1.1 million of the meat products were served last year. It was created by the Cancer Project of the group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit that encourages, among other things, an “all plant diet” to prevent and treat disease.

The group wants people to know the risks it believes are associated with eating processed meats. The meat industry thinks, according to a release, they’re a “pseudo-medical animal rights group” who want to “create a vegan society.”

Susan Levin, a registered dietitian and PCRM’s director of nutrition education, told The Post that hot dogs and all processed meats should have a warning label, like cigarettes, to warn consumers of the health risks. The difference between processed and other meat lies in the smoking, curing or salting method involving chemicals.

A report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund showed that people who ate 3.5 ounces of processed meat a day had a 36 percent greater chance of suffering from colon cancer, according to Time. The group also cites a 2010 study from the National Institutes of Health and AARP that found eating processed meat raises the chance of developing prostate cancer.

Some studies claim processed meat can be eaten safely in moderation. But the World Cancer Research Fund recommends avoiding it altogether.

The American Meat Institute, a trade association run by the meat and poultry industry, disagrees.

“Hot dogs are part of a healthy, balanced diet,” AMI President J. Patrick Boyle said in a news release. “They come in a variety of nutrition and taste formulas and they are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals.

“This group’s claims are on a collision course with the facts.”
Hot dogs. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The AMI, which also runs the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council and MeatSafety.org, cites a Harvard School of Public Health analysis presented at a 2004 conference that found no connection between colorectal cancer and red and processed meats.

Indeed, the abstract of the analysis by two Harvard professors concludes, “Theseprospective data do not support a positive association between higher red meat and fat intake and colorectal cancer risk.”

One of the authors of the analysis, Dr. Stephanie Smith-Warner, told The Post that 14 studies, which included about 755,000 people, were used. The analysis is currently being updated to include more studies and about one million additional people.

A 2010 study published by the same school found that there are health risks from eating processed meat, namely that each 50 gram daily serving gives a person a 43 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Levin said the group targeted hot dogs, as opposed to other processed meats, because of the large amount consumed at this time of year. It is, in fact, National Hot Dog Month, according to the AMI’s National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. The council also claims that American consumers spent $1.6 billion on hot dogs last year at retails outlets, not including Wal-Mart.

This is not the first time the groups have butted heads.

A 2008 ad from the PCRM, shown during the Super Bowl, showed kids lamenting the fact that they ate processed meats and now have cancer. Watch it below. In 2009, the group place a very similar billboard near the baseball stadium in St. Louis.

Do you think that hot dogs and other processed meats should have warning labels like cigarettes? Let us know in the comments.

By  |  02:49 PM ET, 07/28/2011

 
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