European health experts have published a new safety warning after detecting traces of cancer-causing chemicals in beer and cured meats, such as bacon and ham.

Health bosses from the European Union (EU) have found an alarming level of nitrosamines in some processed meats and beers, which they have now declared as a rising health concern.

What are nitrosamines?

Nitrosamines are chemicals known to cause cancer in a variety of organs including the lung, brain, liver, kidney, bladder, stomach and oesophagus.

Nitrosamines are not purposely added to food. They are formed by the reaction of nitrite with secondary amines.

Health officials have identified 10 different types of nitrosamines contained in food and drinks across Europe.

Where are nitrosamines found?

They have been detected in cured meat, processed fish, cocoa and beer, as well as milk, cereals and some vegetables.

Processed meats contain nitrites to prolong the shelf-life of cold cuts of meat. In addition, nitrites give ham its tangy taste and fresh pink look.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) chair of the panel on contaminants in the food chain, Dr Dieter Schrenk said: “Our assessment concludes for all age groups across the EU population, the level of exposure to nitrosamines in food raises a health concern.”

People are advised to consume a healthy, balanced diet containing a range of foods to reduce their intake of nitrosamines.

To reduce people’s intake of nitrosamines, warnings on the packaging of products containing one or more of the 10 nitrosamines of concern could be introduced.

A tax on processed meats could also be brought in to reduce the population’s intake of nitrosamines.

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