Cigarette cancer warnings…… on hot dogs?

A piece on my local news channel caught my eye last night.  They showed a huge billboard right over my city’s baseball stadium that read: Warning: Hot dogs can strike you out–for good.
One was also placed outside of St Louis’ Busch Stadium for the 2009 All-Star Game last July, and one near Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of NASCAR.

cancer project billboard hot dogs
   For those of you who aren’t from the US, baseball and hot dogs go together like movies and popcorn…like sumo wrestling and sushi….like Octoberfest and beer.

These billboards were masterfully placed.  And the graphic of the hot dogs looking like cigarettes is hysterical.  But is it accurate?

It’s no big shock that hot dogs are unhealthy.  The meat in hot dogs, whether it’s beef, turkey or pork, consists of a combo of meat that is mechanically separated, and meat by products, (any part of the animal that is not meat…spleens, kidneys, brains, bone, stomach, etc….but don’t worry, they can’t include hair, horns, or hooves by law) fat, and chemical preservatives.  Hot dogs can also contain listeria since they’re pre-cooked when packaged, so they should be heated before consuming.  Lysteria is a bacteria that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,and meningitis (an infection of the brain covering).

processed meat

Chocolate frozen yogurt? Nope. This photo from a National Geographic video shows what mechanically separated meat looks like. It's made from all the scraps that hang on the bones. This machine was in a hot dog plant. Yummy! I want mine with rainbow sprinkles!

Aren’t hot dogs great?

Now let’s be real.  Yes, hot dogs are unhealthy.  I don’t think there is anyone that would say otherwise.  (well…maybe the hot dog companies would) But should we go so far as to put warnings on hot dog labels?  That’s a debate that will be fought by rich politically motivated food groups for, it seems, years to come.

Now we get into the tangled web that the politics of food and big money can weave.

                                                                   In the blue corner:

I went to the web site on the sign “The Cancer Project”.  It looks like a very legitimate, well organized impressive site.  I liked the vegetarian recipe link and the link for kids teaching them about healthy eating and offering cooking classes.  It is set up as a non-profit organization that takes donations from anyone to fund their efforts.  Looks nice, informative, and legit.  However….

When I looked a bit closer, I was interested to find out that this organization is an offshoot of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).  13% of it’s 120,000 members are doctors, despite its name.  The PCRM shares funds, millions of dollars worth of funds, with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).  All of these organizations are bankrolled in large amounts ($62 million since 2003) by Nanci Alexander  (and spouse) who also bankroll SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty).  The US Dept of Justice has labeled the SHAC as “one of America’s terrorist groups” and they were indicted on a series of charges  including stalking, individual harassment, and conspiracy to use a telecommunications device to abuse, threaten and harass (including children) all in the name of animal rights.  You can read it all here on page 29 of the US Attorney’s Office records.

                                                                    In the red corner: 

 The Center for Consumer Freedom is an organization opposed to PCRM and PETA and regularly write blogs and articles attacking their credibility.  They are funded by restaurants and farmers and contributors that …”want anonymity as contributors. They are reasonably apprehensive about privacy and safety in light of the violence and other forms of aggression some activists have adopted as a “game plan” to impose their views, so we respect their wishes”.  Whaddya think….some beef council money in there or what?

The dairy, beef, egg, and poultry all have international councils that can provide information on the health benefits of eggs cheese, meat and chickens.  Some facts are supported by research, others are not. Case in point: the American Dairy Council had to pull its successful “milk helps you lose weight” ads because there is no evidence supporting their claim that drinking milk will help you lose weight.

The restauranteur associations also are in this group.  Especially the steakhouses and fast food chains like McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

                                                        We need the fringe!

These two groups are on opposing sides and will fund research all day if it means it will support their claims.

But we need the extremes in order to identify the mainstream.  50 years ago, doctors were telling patients to take up cigarette smoking in order to improve their breathing and make them happier and less stressed.  It wasn’t until the “extremists” questioned big tobacco that people starting listening.

old cigarette ads

We need to question current trends and investigate them to see if they are really the way towards better health.  Diversity is good and really necessary in order to see the truth.  But don’t believe it’s truth just because they tell you it’s so.

                                  Let’s be sensible!
As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am an advocate for healthy eating and I have adopted an almost totally plant-based balanced diet and exercise program to prevent the return of my cancer and live better and happier.

This is a personal choice that I have made based on what I have read, my nursing and nutritional background and my own experience with how good I feel eating a plant based diet.

I also don’t condone the senseless killing of animals or any inhumane treatment of animals of any kind, although I am not a member of any formal organized groups.

That said, I also believe in personal freedom and personal choice when it comes to choosing how you live and what you put into your body.  I do believe you should be able to eat whatever you want, but your decisions should be informed ones.

Try (if you can) to sift through the reliable information that does not come with an attached agenda, and find information that you can use to improve your health.

  1. Use moderation– a hot dog at the ball game is fine if you choose to, once in a while, but realize what those choices do inside your body.  There are other choices.
  2. Get informed – learn what those choices are. If you want to change your diet and lifestyle, read data that is unbiased and supported by more than just one study in one place.  Where does their money come from?
  3. Be smart – don’t fall into fad diets or one’s that promise you instant energy or fast weight loss.  No one has to tell you that the french fries are worse for your than the baked sweet potato. You’re a smart cookie (oatmeal, of course).
  4. Try something new – if you just think you won’t like soy or almond milk, you don’t really know.  Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

As for hot dogs, there is a well known and highly respected study that showed that children who eat more than 12 hot dogs per month have an increased incidence of leukemia.   There are other studies that show that eating red meats can increase your incidence of colon cancer, and there are countless studies that show eating a diet that includes an abundance of fruits and vegetables with whole grains will reduce your risk of dozens of illnesses and may cure the illnesses you have.  But again, the choice is yours……for now.

Let me know your thoughts.  Is a warning on food going too far?


Categories: cancer prevention, diet, health, health and wellness, healthy diet, nutrition

Tags: , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. I find myself wondering where organic processed meats fit into this picture. Is it the nitrites/nitrates causing the cancer, etc? Canada already requires warning labels on processed meats. And I do think warning labels can be effective. Most folks don’t generally do the research, but when presented with it, they can at least make a more educated decision. My son gets an occasional organic turkey sandwich – is that ok? The group fails to provide much information at all, so it does seem strange!

    • The study that looked at leukemia and hot dog intake did suggest that the culprits are nitrate preservatives. Organic meats are fine (as long as they are truly organic) but when you process them, you subject the meat to breakdown and high intensity heat. This changes the chemical structure and also produces other substances. A new report out May 2011 advises people to limit red meat and avoid processed meat to reduce your risk of colon cancer.
      Here is a link to the dietary recommendations of the World Cancer Research Fund:

      Bottom line is stay away from processed meats of any kind. Just because they start out with organic turkey, doesn’t mean that’s all you’re getting in the end. Better to cook the organic turkey yourself and give him fresh slices on a sandwich.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Good points. Hot dogs are easy choices for little kids, so when my kids ask for it, I tend to give it especially when we are at a restaurant. I sometimes buy chicken sausages for my girls, but I will reduce the number of times I give my girls sausages. Thanks for the information!

    • There are healthier “hot dogs” (even tofu dogs) so you could look for those instead of the “traditional meat” hot dogs. I don’t know what it is about hot dogs that kids like. I wonder if they made “spinach dogs” would they be as much fun?
      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I do like an occasional hot dog but this is gonna make me think twice before I indulge. Definitely gonna make me pick something else. Thanks Sister Earth 🙂

  4. People that eat hotdogs are not going to care if there is a warning label on the package. Just as people who smoke don’t really pay attention to it either. It’s like those drug ads on TV. I sometimes laugh at all the side affects they have to list. It makes you think that maybe the ailment it better than having to deal with any of the side affects. Where would it end with warning labels on food? I think that just listing the ingredients and nutritional values should be enough to give us what we need to make educated decisions on whether to ingest it or not.

So whaddya think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: