The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for “a Label on Processed Meat and Poultry Products Warning the Public that Frequent Consumption May Increase the Risk of Colorectal Cancer.”

Citing the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s finding that smoked, salted and/or cured bacon, hot dogs, ham, sausages and similar products are “carcinogenic to humans,” CSPI argues that epidemiological studies backed by “mechanistic evidence” support the alleged link between processed meat and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The group also points to similar conclusions drawn by the World Cancer Research Fund International, American Institute for Cancer Research, Imperial College London and the American Cancer Society, the latter of which “advises the public to ‘minimize consumption of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, and hot dogs’ based on evidence that the risk of colorectal cancer increases by 15 to 20 percent for every 50 grams consumed daily.”

CSPI claims that the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Protection Act give USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) “broad authority” to make the labeling changes requested by the petition. In particular, the group opines that meat is misbranded “if its label fails to reveal material facts ‘with respect to consequences which may result from the use of the food… under conditions of use as are customary or usual.'” As CSPI concludes, “Concern that the label may constitute prohibited compelled speech under the Constitution does not pose a barrier to FSIS granting this petition. The label requested serves a substantial governmental interest in protecting public health, directly advances that interest, and is no more intrusive than necessary to achieve that interest. It provides consumers with information that is factual and uncontroversial in that the link between consumption of processed meat and colorectal cancer is well supported by the evidence.”


Issue 624

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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