The worsht of health
A new report says preserved meats are bad for us. So should kosher sausages carry health warnings? Leon Symons and Jemimah Steinfeld investigate
VIENNAS, WORSHT and sausages have been part of the Jewish staple diet in Britain for deca d e s . Haras s e d mothers desperate to feed their fussy children usually have one or more in the fridge or freezer, to be pulled out in times of greatest need.
But could that habit be under threat? A report published last week by the World Cancer Research Fund on food, nutrition, physical activity and their links to the cause and prevention of cancer — said by the Fund to be the most comprehensive study ever undertaken — produced evidence suggesting that healthy eaters should avoid all preserved meats.
The report puts it bluntly: “The evidence that red meats and processed meats are a cause of colorectal cancer is convincing.” Although the panel points the finger at non-kosher products such as ham and bacon, it also talks about a lot of kosher favourites — salami, pastrami, sausages and frankfurters. The report comments that smoking, curing, salting and adding preservatives are all cancer risks. A packet of kosher salt beef on the supermarket shelves illustrates the point. The ingredients include eight E-numbers, including sodium nitrite, which is implicated by the report.
Luci Daniels, a former chair of the British Dietetic Association and a leading dietitian, agrees with the findings and suggests that we would do well to take note: “This report is in line with current healthy-eating recommendations. As an ethnic group, we tend to be heavy and are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes as well as cancer. Cutting down on preserved meats will help in this area. There are easy alternatives for healthy, nutritious and tasty meals.
“Having said that, this doesn’t mean you can’t eat a sausage at a barbecue. You can, but it would be bad to have viennas the following night and then salami after that.”
Her view is backed up by Pamela Goldberg, chief executive of the Breast Cancer Campaign, who says: “It’s the same with all these things — everything in moderation. If your diet consists of purely salami, pickle and preserved food, you should consider changing.
“Jews, especially in the strictly Orthodox community, may check on the supervision but are not used to scrutinising labels for their nutritional value.”
A spokesman for food retailer Yarden disagrees: “One week they tell you it’s healthy to eat meat, the next week it’s not. If manufacturers produce healthy alternatives, then we would be interested. Our main priority is to give the customers the choice.”
And a spokesperson at Blooms restaurants in Golders Green, North West London, does not anticipate tastes changing. “We’ve been serving it for 50 or 60 years,” he says. “Salami, viennas, etc, are very easy meals for working housewives and children.”
Meats including sausages, salt beef and salami have been found to carry a higher cancer risk