Q. What's wrong with hot dogs?
A. Nitrite additives in hotdogs form carcinogens.
Petition to ban nitrites
Three different studies have come out in the past year, finding
that the consumption of hot dogs can be a risk factor for childhood
Peters et al. studied the relationship between the intake of
certain foods and the risk of leukemia in children from birth to
age 10 in Los Angeles
between 1980 and 1987. The study found that children eating more than 12
hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood
A strong risk for childhood leukemia also existed for those children whose
fathers' intake of hot dogs was 12 or more per month.
Researchers Sarusua and Savitz studied childhood cancer cases
in Denver and found that children born to mothers who consumed
hot dogs one or more
per week during pregnancy has approximately double the risk of developing
brain tumors. Children who ate hot dogs one or more times per week were
also at higher
risk of brain cancer.
Bunin et al, also found that maternal consumption of hot dogs
during pregnancy was associated with an excess risk of childhood
Q. How could hot dogs cause
A. Hot dogs contain nitrites which are used as
preservatives, primarily to combat botulism. During the cooking
process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat
to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. It is also suspected that
nitrites can combine with amines in the human stomach to form N-nitroso
compounds. These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated
with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach
Q. Some vegetables contain nitrites, do they cause cancer
A. It is true that nitrites are commonly found
in many green vegetables, especially spinach, celery and green lettuce.
However, the consumption of vegetables appears to be effective in
reducing the risk of cancer. How is this possible? The explanation
lies in the formation of N-nitroso compounds from nitrites and amines.
Nitrite containing vegetables also have Vitamin C and D, which serve
to inhibit the formation of N-nitroso compounds. Consequently, vegetables
are quite safe and healthy, and serve to reduce your cancer risk.
Q. Do other food products contain nitrites?
A. Yes, all cured meats contain nitrites. These
include bacon and fish.
Q. Are all hot dogs a risk for childhood cancer?
A. No. Not all hot dogs on the market contain nitrites.
Because of modern refrigeration methods, nitrites are now used more
for the red color they produce (which is associated with freshness)
than for preservation. Nitrite-free hot dogs, while they taste the
same as nitrite hot dogs, have a brownish color that has limited
their popularity among consumers. When cooked, nitrite-free hot
dogs are perfectly safe and healthy.
HERE ARE FOUR THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO:
1. Do not buy hot dogs containing nitrite. It is
especially important that children and potential parents do not
consume 12 or more of these hot dogs per month.
2. Request that your supermarket have nitrite-free hot dogs
3. Contact your local school board and find out
whether children are being served nitrite hot dogs in the cafeteria,
Request that they use only nitrite-free hot dogs.
4. Write the FDA and express your concern that nitrite-hot
dogs are not labeled for their cancer risk to children. You can
mention CPC's petition on hot dogs, docket #: 95P 0112/CP1.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Cancer Prevention Coalition
c/o School of Public Health,
University of Illinois at Chicago
2121 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60612
Tel: (312) 996-2297, Fax: (312) 413-9898
1. Peters J, et al " Processed meats and risk of childhood
leukemia (California, USA)" Cancer Causes & Control
5: 195-202, 1994.
2. Sarasua S, Savitz D. " Cured and broiled meat consumption
in relation to childhood cancer: Denver, Colorado (United States),"
Cancer Causes & Control 5:141-8, 1994.
3. Bunin GR, et al. "Maternal diet and risk of astrocytic glioma
in children: a report from the children's cancer group (United States
and Canada)," Cancer Causes & Control 5:177-87,
4. Lijinsky W, Epstein, S. "Nitrosamines as environmental carcinogens,"
Nature 225 (5227): 2112, 1970.