How risky is processed meat?

At Tops Day Nurseries we strive to provide the healthiest, happiest childcare that we possibly can. This is why we have made the decision to start removing processed meats from our Nursery menus.

In recent months there has been a lot of attention in the media surrounding the impact that processed meats can have on our health. Most recently, Cancer research released an article in April 2019 confirming that processed meats are a group 1 carcinogenic. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a group of experts that review and report on research evidence, classified processed meat as a ‘definite’ cause of cancer.

A study funded by the Swedish Cancer Foundation found that for each 50 grams of processed meat eaten every day, equivalent to a sausage or two rashers of bacon, there was a 19 per cent rise in the risk of cancer. The risk increased by 38 per cent and 57 per cent for people who eat 100 grams per day and 150 grams per day of processed meat.

What makes it risky?

Researchers are still trying to pin down exactly how processed meat cause cells to become cancerous, but the main culprits seem to be certain chemicals found in the meat itself – both added and naturally occurring.

Processed meat including bacon, sausages, hot dogs, ham and salami are modified to either extend their shelf-life or change the taste. The main methods are smoking, curing, or adding salt or preservatives. It is thought the chemicals involved in the processing could be increasing the risk of cancer.

When processed meat is digested N-nitroso is formed in the gut and these have been found to damage the cells that line the bowel. In addition, the nitrite and nitrate preservatives used to preserve processed meat produce these N-nitroso chemicals and are thought to be the cause of bowel cancer. The evidence is clear that eating less processed meat can help reduce the risk of cancer.

We are not saying that children should never eat processed meats and we are certainly not banning processed meats from our settings, we are simply trying to help reduce the amount of processed meats that the children consume in our care by providing healthy alternatives.

We will be starting to remove any processed meats from our Nursery menu’s and they will be released to parents once they are finalised.

For more information, please see these useful links:-

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/meat-nutrition/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34615621

https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/1in3cancers/lifestyle-choices-and-cancer/red-meat-processed-meat-and-cancer/

https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/

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