Friday, July 24, 2009

Should Hot Dogs Have Warning Labels?

Should Hot Dogs Have Warning Labels?

On Wednesday, July 22, the Cancer Project, an affiliate of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit organization that advocates vegetarianism and alternatives to animal research, filed a class-action consumer fraud lawsuit to require hot dog manufacturers to place warning labels on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey. The labels would read, "Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer."

According to PCRM's press release, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of three New Jersey residents who purchased hot dogs without knowing that processed meats contribute to colorectal cancer.

Studies show that there is conclusive link between meat consumption and colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society even warns, "A diet that is high in red meats (beef, lamb, or liver) and processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, and lunch meat can increase your colorectal cancer risk."

Does this mean the hot dog companies should be required to inform potential customers about the risks involved? Well, why not? Some people will say that an occassional hot dog won't hurt anyone, and that most people already know that hot dogs aren't a healthy food.  But, for the many people who struggle to eat "in moderation," or don't even attempt too, warning labels might make it harder for them to remain willfully ignorant, eating meats every day of every week and contributing to America's skyrocketing health care costs.      

Cigarettes carry warnings stating that smoking causes cancer; why not meat? While we can't entirely avoid every unhealthy food, compound, or toxin there is, we can identify the major disease culprits. Warning labels may not prevent people from eating hot dogs altogether--they can still choose to eat as many as the wish--but perhaps labels will make them more mindful of their eating habits.

Personally, I'd rather see labels reminding hot dog consumers that "this package contains the flesh of a smart, social pig who was slaughtered in a bloody, violent way." That way, even consumers who claim that just a few hot dogs won't hurt them, will still have to acknowledge that the same sentiment doesn't apply to pigs.

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