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Should You Feed Your Kids Hot Dogs?

posted: 10/26/15
by: Mara Betsch
Gourmet Grilled All Beef Hots Dogs
iStock

It's the ultimate parenting dilemma: let your kids eat the foods they love or try to get them to eat the foods you want them to love. Though plenty of kids happily gobble up broccoli and quinoa, there are also plenty of kids that subsist on a diet of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. And if there's a food universally beloved by children, it's the hot dog.

Unfortunately, hot dogs don't have the best reputation. Some contain nitrites, which are used to preserve the meat, but during the cooking process, nitrites combine with other compounds and can create carcinogens. And no parent wants their kids eating anything that can potentially cause cancer.

Thankfully, plenty of brands offer organic, nitrite-free options that parents can feel good about feeding their children. Unfortunately, some recent news on processed meats has moms everywhere wondering if they should phase out frankfurters.

Today, the International Agency on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization's cancer agency, released a report that gave bacon fanatics the worst news of their lives. After looking over the literature (more than 800 studies) and evaluating the link between cancer and the consumption of red and processed meats, a group of 22 experts came back with some startling results.

Processed meats, which includes hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, beef jerky, and canned meat, were classified as Group 1, which includes known carcinogens such as tobacco and asbestos. After delving into the research, the experts found that there was sufficient evidence that eating processed meats increases your risk of colorectal cancer. For every 50 grams of processed meat eaten a day (that's about one hot dog, 2 slices of bacon, or one pork sausage) your risk of colorectal cancer increases by 18 percent. They estimate that 34,000 deaths from cancer could be due to diets high in processed meat.

Red meat fared a little better, and was put in group 2A, which means that there is limited evidence that red meat increases your risk of cancer. (Check out this handy chart courtesy of Compound Interest below for more on what the IARC categories mean.)

So should we all become vegetarians? Not quite.

Though this isn't exactly what meat lovers want to hear, and that data is shocking, eating these sorts of meats once a week, or in moderation, won't provide a huge risk.

"For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed," says Dr. Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Programme.

The bottom line: Let your kids enjoy their hot dogs every once in awhile, and choose organic uncured dogs when you can. For adults, this means cutting back on daily bacon or sausage and opting for leaner meats most of the time. But if you're craving a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on the weekend, it's OK to indulge. Just get back to oatmeal and fruit on Monday.