Cancer-Causing Processed Meats Must be Classified as a Health Hazard

Target: Lauren Zeise, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Environment Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), California

Goal: Warn the public of the health hazards of processed meats by including them in California’s list of substances known to cause cancer.

A variety of processed meats were classified by a World Health Organization report as Group 1 carcinogens, meaning that they are known causes of cancer. Under California’s Proposition 65, the public has a right to be informed if they are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals, and the state is required to keep and update a list of substances known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. However, these processed meats are currently absent from the list, and many people are unaware of the risks they are taking in eating them.

Research has concluded that for every 50 grams of processed meat that a person consumes daily, their risk of colorectal cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in California, increases by 18 percent. These processed meats include pepperoni, ham, and sausage made from pork, beef, or poultry. Studies show that this type of meat also increases risk of pancreatic and breast cancers.

A resolution called SCR 100 has been introduced into the California State Legislature, supported by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Social Compassion in Legislation. As Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.—director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—explains, “SCR 100 would warn Californians about the clear-cut cancer risk of consuming cold cuts and other processed meat,” by adding them to the Prop. 65 list of carcinogenic substances. This would require “clear and reasonable” warning labels on any products associated with these substances, so that consumers will be aware of the health hazards. Sign below to demand that the Office of Environment Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) heed this resolution and warn California citizens of the health risks of these processed meats.


Dear Director Zeise,

The health risks of consuming processed meats that have been classified as as Group 1 carcinogens must not continue to be ignored. Following an extensive assessment of over 800 epidemiological studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that consumption of processed meats significantly increases risk of colorectal cancer—the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in California.

However, many California citizens are unaware of these risks because processed meats are not currently included in the Proposition 65 list of substances known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. This is unacceptable. Under the law, Californians have a right to be informed of the health hazards they are exposed to. Substances that cause cancer must have “clear and reasonable” warning labels, and these processed meats must be included on that list of substances. Resolution SCR 100 urges you to do just that, and it is vital that you do so.

As Judie Mancuso, of Social Compassion in Legislation, states, “At one point in time, people smoked cigarettes without giving it a second thought or considering the health risks involved, because they were completely unaware of the risks. Many people around the world still smoke today, but at least they do know the potential risks involved and many don’t or have cut back because of their awareness of the potential to develop lung cancer. That is all we are asking for; people have a right to know the risks involved in consuming processed meat, which has the potential to cause colon cancer in the long run.” It is your responsibility to ensure that the people of California remain protected and informed. I urge you to include dangerous processed meats in the Prop. 65 list of cancer-causing substances.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Farm Watch

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  1. Simple answer. Don’t eat meat!

  2. All animal products are toxic!

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