A little chocolate may be good for you, but eating an entire bag of Halloween candy is overdoing it. A glass of wine a day might actually have some health benefits, more so than a bottle. I think most people can live within those means.

So when a medical group announces that eating processed meats — in any amount — is bad for you, I get a little suspicious. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has petitioned the USDA to ban schools from offering processed meats to children, including bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni and bologna.

The group’s contention is that eating processed meats as a child will result in higher risks of getting colon cancer as an adult. Instead, vegetarianism is considered the healthiest lifestyle choice. Not too surprising, as PCRM has been financially tied to PETA.

Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the group, was quoted in Newsday as saying that parents would never let their children eat processed meat if they saw how it was made, and that hot dogs are made by “grinding up pigs’ lips and esophagus.” (Dr. Barnard apparently got most of his knowledge of hot dog production from the Dan Ackroyd/John Candy movie “The Great Outdoors.”)

There has been considerable opposition to PCRM’s findings, both within the meat-processing industry and outside it. The argument is that processed meats eaten in moderation aren’t harmful, and that argument will be taken right to the USDA’s door should the government seriously consider a ban.

Still, for all its biases, PCRM’s message does fit with the trend of consumers who are taking a closer look at what’s in the food they’re feeding their families. While they might not cut processed meats out of their diet altogether, they’d probably feel better about buying their sausages and lunch meat if they knew they fit in well with a balanced diet.

A processor who can boast a natural, nitrite/nitrate-free product may win over hesitant consumers. An ingredients list with easily recognizable words and a good nutritional panel can go a long way with today’s shoppers. Many processors have already gone this route with success. If you can make a consumer feel good about buying your product, you’ve got a regular customer.


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