NHS hospitals are giving patients food linked to cancer

NHS hospitals are giving patients food linked to cancer
Bye bye, pink ham: Nitrates in cured meats linked to cancer, French …

NHS hospitals are giving patients meat cured with chemicals that experts say may cause cancer.

According to a Guardian investigation, sixty-one NHS trusts in England, including leading cancer hospitals and childrens' hospitals, are serving meat in their hospitals that may contain the preservatives nitrates or nitrites which are often found in bacon and ham and are used to give bacon its pink colour.

This is despite some scientists and MPs urging the government to ban them from being used in food preparation and WHO warning they can cause bowel cancer.

“This latest investigation shines a disturbing light on the risks that vulnerable groups, including children, are exposed to in our hospitals”, said Prof Chris Elliott, an expert on toxic chemicals in food, who is a leading campaigner for nitrites to be removed from meat production.

Given so many hospitals are still using nitrite-cured meat “it is clear that these health risks are not well-understood and limited action is being taken to reduce an everyday cancer risk”, he added.

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“The UK government must follow the latest evidence and ban nitrites to keep these cancer-causing chemicals out of our hospitals and in fact out of our entire food system.”

In March the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) declared that the levels of nitrosamines found in food across the continent such as cured meat – chemicals that are carcinogenic or genotoxic – “raise a health concern”.

Meanwhile, the French government recently ordered the meat industry to cut the amount of nitrites in products such as ham and sausages.

An NHS England spokesperson told the Guardian: “While food safety and regulation are matters for the Food Standards Agency and government, the NHS supports people in hospital with healthy meals and recently introduced new national food standards to further improve catering services for patients.”

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