Don't feed our kids too much junk

WHO WARNING: Bacon, ham and sausages were ranked as Group 1 carcinogens in a World Health Organisation report last week - placing them in the same group as tobacco, arsenic, asbestos and alcohol.


    Nov 02, 2015

    Don't feed our kids too much junk

    IT GRATES me that sausages are a common children's food. You see them all the time on children's menus, at parties and in kindergartens. They get to your kids before you know it.

    When my son was very young, perhaps four years old, he pointed to a packet of cheap cocktail sausages in the supermarket one day. "Oh I like that, mummy. Buy that!"

    I turned to him in surprise. As I had then barely said "sausage" to my children, let alone feed the stuff to them, I was baffled how he had acquired such a taste. At kindergarten, it seems.

    Burgers, sausages and hot dogs are ubiquitous now, alongside our rising meat consumption (which quadrupled in the 40-year period from 1961). It is hard to keep the stuff away from kids. But we should.

    Would you hand over cigarettes or arsenic to your children? Of course not. But the hard fact is, sausages - as well as cured meats - are carcinogenic.

    Bacon, ham and sausages were ranked as Group 1 carcinogens in a World Health Organisation report last week - placing them in the same group as tobacco, arsenic, asbestos and alcohol.

    Eat 50g of the stuff daily (about one sausage or a couple of small rashers of bacon) and the risk of colorectal cancer rises by 18 per cent, the report said. However, the risk is still far lower than that of tobacco with lung cancer.

    Red meat also carries a risk, but was deemed a far lesser evil in the Group 2 category. Still, there are lots of reasons to avoid red meat - including strong environmental reasons.

    Of course, some people may argue that death is inevitable in one way or another. Fine, stuff yourself with cigarettes and sausages. But be warned that death may not be sudden, but a prolonged debilitating process that makes living itself hell.

    At the very least, my call is to not feed our children too much junk.


    I actually never ate sausages at all as a young child. We ate only "real food" at home (mostly fish, rice, vegetables and a bit of chicken sometimes). Processed food was not that common then. I did visit a fast-food joint once, which was round the corner from where we lived, but I remember drinking only the root beer. The sausage, even if I had any, never made an impression.

    My years in Britain with good quality "bangers" changed that. There is certainly a difference in quality among sausages. Some do not contain much meat and are loaded with junk; others use more high-quality meat and natural ingredients (and thus less junk as filler).

    Most countries have regulations on meat content in sausages and burgers - Malaysia's are a bit more relaxed than some countries. Not many studies have scrutinised our burgers and sausages. One study found that burgers were made of at least 50 per cent meat.

    But define "meat". Sausages, particularly hot dogs, are often made up of the kind of meat you would never buy. That is what puts me off. Mechanically deboned meat, low-quality chicken trimmings, stuffing carcasses through metal grates and blasting them with water to form a slurry… mmm, lovely.

    Some years back, the "pink slime" controversy arose in the United States. High fat meat (reportedly previously used as pet food) was processed with ammonia and put through a centrifuge to take away the chewy toughness and fat. The resulting "pink slime" was being used to make hamburgers.

    But public pressure from parents and even Jamie Oliver eventually led to a change. McDonald's also pulled out from using such meat.

    The real danger in processed meat is the sodium nitrites, a fixer which helps kill bacteria and gives that "pink" look. But it also leads to cancer-causing nitrosamines in the body. The real sausage or burger would be a faded grey colour - more true to content - and we would probably never eat it.