Harmful ham? Ingredient in charcuterie linked to dangerous cancer

A chemical used in the production of the delicacy has been found to be harmful to humans.

Health authorities in France have found evidence to support studies linking nitrates used in processing meat to colon cancer. According to The Guardian, the country’s national food safety body, Anses said its data corroborates similar findings made by the World Health Organization in 2015.

Harmful ingredient

Ham, also known as charcuterie and is often consumed as snacks or with drinks is one of France’s biggest products. This range of cold cuts have nitrates as a main ingredient in them to improve shelf life and flavour, and to give the products the pink hue. Following Anses’ findings, the French government declared it would put in place measures to reduce the nitrate content in the pork-based products.

It is about limiting their use to the strictly necessary. The reduction must be done in a balanced way that guarantees food security for the consumer.

Anses’ recommendations contained in a statement, centre around cutting down the consumption of the nitrates and nitrites by reducing their exposure to food.

Getty/ Alexander Spatari

Rehashed warning

In 2015, a study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that processed meats - bacon, salami, chorizo, bratwurst charcuterie - should be classified as carcinogens.

The French health body Anses said reducing nitrates in the production of ham would result in increased risks of serious illnesses such as botulism, listeria or salmonella. However, added these risks could be mitigated by cutting back on the best-before consumption dates and through improved manufacturing processes. In a joint statement on Anses’ announcement the campaign group Foodwatch, the League Against Cancer and the health-monitoring app Yuka said:

Faced with the scientific facts, the political class must take action

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