According to a Queen’s University Belfast research study, mice that are fed processed pork containing nitrites developed 75% more tumours than mice fed meat without the additives.

One of the study’s authors, Professor Chris Elliott OBE, stated that the findings “make the cancer risk associated with nitrite-cured meat even clearer”.

He urged the government to “follow the facts” and prohibit producers from putting the chemical in food.

Nitrites are chemical compounds that contain nitrogen and oxygen atoms bonded together. Nitrites are often used as food preservatives, particularly in processed meats like bacon, ham, and hot dogs.

Nitrites help to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning and extend the shelf life of these products. They also give processed meats their characteristic pink color and contribute to their flavor.

While this study was conducted on mice, evidence suggests that processed meat raises the risk of bowel cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat as carcinogenic in 2015.

Breast and prostate cancers have also been related to nitrites. Scientists are currently investigating the function of nitrites in this, as other variables may possibly be to blame.

Research shows that when the chemicals enter the stomach, they might aid in the production of cancer-causing substances known as nitrosamines.

The study observed that mice fed nitrite-free meat grew no tumours, but those fed meat with 15% nitrites, developed 75% more.

The study authors state that a diet containing 15% nitrites would be considered a very high intake.

Approximately 90% of bacon sold in UK shops include nitrites.

Pork is believed to account for more than half of people’s daily consumption of the chemical.

Last summer, France’s food authority urged individuals to limit their consumption of processed meat to 150g per week after concluding that it is connected to bowel cancer.

The European Food Safety Authority cautioned consumers in October stating people are ingesting hazardous quantities of nitrites.

Professor Elliott reportedly told The Guardian that the “everyday consumption of nitrite-containing bacon and ham poses a very real risk to public health.”

The research was published in the journal Nature.

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