mercredi 28 septembre 2016

89- Nitrites in meat, but what for?


For once, I will talk about meat. It is not my habit, not because I am a vegetarian, but because this is a subject I know very little. But if the opportunity arises to talk safely without telling you too much nonsense ...

I point to my non-French readers that France is probably the country where the media and political pressure against chemistry in general and against its uses in food (use of agricultural pesticides and additives in food) is the highest. Television programs against agriculture and agri-food industry are extremely numerous, of the order of 1 to 1.5 per week (
Whatever the subject, the negative aspects are always exhaustively examined with varying degrees of dishonesty, and the positive or simply useful aspects are systematically ignored. The monthly program Cash Investigation, led by the highly publicized and very controversial Elise Lucet is one of the spearheads of this policy to the unstated purposes.

So in the Cash Investigation television program of September 13th ( ), Elise Lucet vehemently denounced, supposed evidences and especially testimonies in support, according to her usual method, the widespread use of nitrites in preserved meats, especially ham and sausages. The sole purpose of the massive use of this additive, according to her argument, is to keep the meat with its pink color.


Nitrites are accused of being among the responsible, especially of colorectal cancers. IARC, controversial reference as to the impartiality of its work, classify it in the 2A class or probable carcinogen (high probability). The product presents a danger, it seems clear, although controversy exists.
Therefore the risk question is to know what the reasonable quantity that the consumer has not to exceed is. The risk is the danger multiplied by the exposure, in this case, the consumption. (The parachute jump presents a danger. But you will have risk only if you practice).
The more you will consume products containing nitrites, the more you will have risk of developing cancers for which the product exposes you.
The subject is very serious, we should not take it lightly.

Big success for the back-to-school program. It's necessary to re-motivate the public depressed by the summer's end. A little anxiety blow, to do a good audience ratings for the autumn.
Except that the problem is not where it's claimed to be. The show presents the use of nitrites as the main responsible for the increase in certain types of cancers.

Yet there are some details that it completely ignored.

Our societies are noting a significant increase in the number of cancers of all types. The explanations for this are many. Pesticides and fertilizers are, of course, among the first accused.
Yet there is a cause of major importance that today nobody is questioning, but about which we speak little, the age. Life expectancy in the USA was just under 70 years in 1960, it is more than 81 in 2012 (source World Bank).
Colorectal cancers are typical diseases of the elderly. Increasing life expectancy causes a sharp increase in the number of people likely to develop this type of cancer, so the number of cases.
Should we attribute the increase in these types of cancer to the use of nitrites, or increase the number of older people?

Moreover, the increase of the charcuterie consumption approximately follows the increase in population. In France, the population grew from 44 million in 1960 to 66 million in 2012 ( ), an increase of 50%, while the charcuterie consumption increased from less than 1.5 million tons to 2.1 million tons, an increase of 50% as well.

With so few obvious evidences, why is it necessary to do a sensational TV show on a problem that does not exist?
What are the hidden interests that defends Elise Lucet on her show?

Picture (from the film "Les vieux de la vieille"):

Because the real questions, those she did not want to ask are:
Are really nitrites used only for the meat retains its beautiful pink color?
If this is the case, and that this additive is so dangerous, why do health authorities allow its massive use?
Are agri-food industry lobbies so powerful that governments let them do anything without reacting, assuming it really exists a risk to public health?

A tour on the internet to find information, and here we are on the blog of Wackes Seppi, which makes us a very clear situation summary ( on France-2-nothing-a-wax-the-csa-or-the-telespectateurs.html )

Then we go to the web Info-nitrites, which presents a very simple and clear video ( ). We take this opportunity in order to assess the amount of ham that we can eat every day without any risk, according to European standards ( ).

What do we learn from this?
-       That nitrites are today a necessity to preserve meat more than a few days. There is not, for now, any better product,
-       That, contrary to what Elise Lucet declared, the color pink is only a consequence of the use of nitrites. We must recognize that we are so accustomed to buy pink ham, that if we had to buy it brownish, we would have some difficulties to get used to,
-       That the bacteria against which nitrites have an action are infinitely more dangerous than the risk of cancer, the only cause of which nitrites are not. We speak in this case of botulism (a few hundred cases in Europe every year), listeriosis (around 1500 cases in Europe every year) and salmonellosis (over 150,000 cases in Europe every year, although the meat is not the only cause),
-       That we must choose, as is often the case, between two evils. On the one hand, we have a hypothetical risk of developing colorectal cancer in old age (if abused charcuterie). On the other hand, we have absolute certainty to witness an explosion of cases of botulism, listeriosis and salmonellosis if we ban this additive, with health problems, risks of death and public health, and also the extra costs there would be related,
-       That France is the country of the European Union where the incidence of colorectal cancer is lowest as you can see at the bottom of the following document


So Elise Lucet, since these additives, according to your theory, are intended only to maintain the pink color of the meat, and has no other interest worthy of being mentioned in a broadcast "information" to a primetime on a TV channel of the public service, if we tested the method on you?

A live nitrite-free charcuterie tasting, in your studio with all your great team and your many supporters?
Then we would make a medical monitoring of the entire group, with statistical analysis in support. You could even have a control group, fed with nitrites treated meats.
There would be a public and scientific study of the impact on consumer health, of the incidence of bacteria that non-nitrite treatment would have no control.
Wouldn't it be a great TV program?

One could even make it a reality show, with live video from toilets and from emergency service of the hospital.

A nice viewership perspective!!!

But I prefer not to participate in the experiment, if Elise Lucet does not mind.

I would not steal the spotlight ...

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