Processed meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, sandwich meat, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami and virtually all red meat used in frozen prepared meals. They are usually manufactured with a carcinogenic ingredient known as sodium nitrite. This is used as a color fixer by meat companies to turn packaged meats a bright red color so they look fresh. Unfortunately, sodium nitrite also results in the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines in the human body. And this leads to a sharp increase in cancer risk for those who eat them.
Sodium nitrite appears predominantly in red meat products (you won’t find it in chicken or fish products). Here’s a short list of food items to check carefully for sodium nitrite and monosodium glutamate (MSG), another dangerous additive:
- Beef jerky
- Hot dogs
- Sandwich meat
- Frozen pizza with meat
- Canned soups with meat
- Frozen meals with meat
- Ravioli and meat pasta foods
- Kid’s meals containing red meat
- Sandwich meat used at popular restaurants
- Nearly all red meats sold at public schools, restaurants, hospitals, hotels and theme parks
Of course, like everything in life, there are those who will never heed these warnings. I still find it mind-blowingly shocking that people smoke cigarettes in 2013 - fully knowing the harm they are doing not only to themselves, but those around them. You can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of processed meats by following a few simple rules:
- Always read ingredient labels.
- Don’t buy anything made with sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate.
- Don’t eat red meats served by restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels or other institutions.
And finally, eat more fresh produce with every meal. There is evidence that natural vitamin C found in citrus fruits and exotic berries (like camu camu) helps prevent the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines, protecting you from the devastating health effects of sodium nitrite in processed meats. The best defense, of course, is to avoid eating processed meats altogether.