The Cardno ChemRisk View
On October 26, 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced a monograph declaring processed meats, such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs, as a Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans) carcinogen, and red meat as a Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans) carcinogen. The committee based their classification on an evaluation of over 800 epidemiological studies that investigated the association of cancer with red meat or processed meat consumption in multiple countries.
IARC’s classification “indicates the weight of the evidence as to whether an agent is capable of causing cancer" (technically called “hazard”), but it does not measure the likelihood that cancer will occur (technically called “risk”) as a result of exposure to the agent.” Therefore, although IARC places processed meats in the same group as smoking, it does not mean they increase cancer risk equally. For perspective, IARC explained that processed meats contribute to about 34,000 cancer deaths worldwide, whereas 1 million cancer deaths due to tobacco smoking occur per year globally. Based on an analysis of data from 10 studies, IARC estimated that eating 50 grams of processed meat (this corresponds to approximately 1.8 oz or the equivalent of one hot dog) daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Notably, as suggested in a recent Q&A posted by NPR, the risk of colorectal cancer is already relatively low and dieticians have long recommended eating less red meat and processed foods.
Potential Regulatory Implications
California’s Proposition 65 maintains a list of chemicals known to cause cancer and requires a warning of exposure to listed chemicals to consumers. Earlier this year, OEHHA changed its Prop 65 regulations without voter’s authorization to list substances, as well as chemicals, known to cause cancer, including those classified by IARC as Group 1 and Group 2A. Thus, in response to IARC’s classification of processed and red meats, OEHHA may give notice to add processed and red meats to the Prop 65 list, requiring warnings on packaging for these products. More information on the potential regulatory implications this IARC classification may have on Prop 65 can be found here.
In the past, infectious diseases often resulted in repeated outbreaks that led to many deaths. These outbreaks were due in part to poor sanitation, overcrowding, and lack of medical understanding. With the development of water sanitation, vaccines, and advances in disease detecting and monitoring, however, many infectious diseases became eradicated in the mid and late 20th century. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), the present re-emergence of some infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, underscores the importance of continued disease prevention and research. The CDC is urging the United States public health system to prepare to address diverse challenges in the future, including possible "emergence of new infectious diseases [and] the re-emergence of old diseases (sometimes in drug-resistant forms)."
The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 with two simultaneous outbreaks; one in Sudan, and the other in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the Ebola River. Since the initial outbreak, the virus wasn't seen again until 1994, when outbreaks occurred in several locations in Africa near or in tropical forests. The 1994 outbreak locations supported the idea that the virus was circulating through a natural reservoir host which is believed to be a fruit bat. Historically, information on the Ebola virus was based on retrospective information, but the 1994 outbreak provided an opportunity to investigate the disease while an epidemic was in progress.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the Ebola virus is transmitted in humans via direct contact with an infected individual, and is not transmitted via air, water, or food. Once an infected individual recovers from the Ebola virus, they can no longer spread the virus to others. Although, due to the fact that the virus is highly contagious, and has an incubation period up to 21 days, it is probable that more cases will arise in the United States from the increase in global travel and lack of screening. As of now, there are no licensed Ebola vaccines available but two potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.
Posted on behalf of Amy Budahn