Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

The American Academy of Pediatricians wants to see big changes in the hot dog industry because hot dogs pose a health hazard to kids. Of course, they're absolutely right. There's not really anything in a hot dog that's good for you. Besides the fact that they're incredibly high in saturated fat and sodium, they're full of nitrites, which cause colon and pancreatic cancer. I've known three people in my life who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and none of them were still alive one year after their diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer is fast-growing and devastating and seemingly unstoppable. So I tend to take it seriously. And in the few isolated parts of the world where processed meats (hot dogs, ham, bacon, etc) that contain nitrites and nitrates are not eaten, colon and pancreatic cancer are virtually non-existent.

But the American Academy of Pediatricians isn't worried about nitrites. In fact, my pediatrician actually recommended that I feed my daughter hot dogs or those canned meat sticks (!) and Ritz crackers (full of hydrogenated oil) in order to get her to gain weight when she was about a year old. This in spite of the fact that she eats a lot, and a wide variety of foods, and is totally on track developmentally, and is genetically predisposed to have a high metabolism... but I digress.

What is the AAP concerned about? Choking. And this is a very serious concern. Hot dogs do pose a very big risk when it comes to choking. Back when I got my first babysitting gig I remember my mom telling me that hot dogs, grapes, carrots, and apples are the biggest choking hazards for kids. It's true that a lot of children die or sustain serious injuries each year from choking on hot dogs, and because of their texture a chunk of hot dog can be very hard to dislodge from a little throat. And I take that very seriously. But I wonder why on earth we're still feeding kids hot dogs to begin with. Asking the meat industry to label hot dogs as a choking hazard and/or redesign their shape is the best the American Academy of Pediatricians can do when it comes to hot dogs? Really? How about labeling them as containing toxic carcinogens? How about educating the public about the risks of eating meats processed with nitrites rather than allowing the meat industry to continue its 40 year campaign that has successfully kept the USDA from banning sodium nitrite as an acceptable food additive? I agree that we need to address immediate threats such as choking, but what about the long-term threats like cancer? Oh yeah, I forgot. We need cancer, to keep our pharmaceutical-industrial complex going. And guess which industry is a major sponsor of the American Academy of Pediatricians (second only to the baby formula industry, of course). Mm-hmm. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but if you follow the money it pans out every time. Every. Time.


  1. Minerva2/23/2010

    I totally don't think you're being a conspiracy theorist here, though. It would be one thing to claim that the AAP advocates for including hot dogs in children's diets because of their corporate sponsorships. People have certainly argued that about the AAPs stance on Ritalin. But you're only saying that they choose to remain silent about about certain health risks because of their corporate relations, and that's something that happens every day in many organizations. Heck, it took the AAP years to admit that breastfeeding is the best option even after the benefits of breastmilk had been well-established in study after study. So obviously they're going to choose to attack something like the shape of the hot dog or the labelling, because it's safe and probably won't lose them any funding.

  2. I think they should reduce the diameter of hot dogs down to 1/8 of an inch. That will solve the choking problem, and because the things will resemble worms at that point, no one will be willing to eat them, thus solving the cancer issue.

    I'm amazed at the kind of ideas I can come up with under the influence of so much caffeine. ;-)

  3. Anonymous2/24/2010

    Just looking at that picture of the meat sticks made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

  4. Hot dog .....its my favorite one ...please throw up in my mouth also...

  5. I've never seen those meat sticks before, and may have nightmares now. I love that they're called graduates. Presumably the (ludicrous) thought is that they will make your kids smart, but to me it just looks like elitist cannibalism.