Americans consume 818 hot dogs every second from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Yet that's not enough for the meat industry. So the North American Meat Institute will observe National Hot Dog Day with thousands more hot dogs at its annual Congressional hot dog lunch on July 22. But the event contradicts the government's own health warnings against processed meat.
Instead, we should take the day to discuss the health risks of processed meat. A panel of experts recently recommended that the pending 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans retain the warnings from the 2010 guidelines that say "evidence suggests an association between the increased intake of processed meats (e.g., franks, sausage, and bacon) and increased risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease."
This is potentially lifesaving information that all Americans need to know. A Harvard School of Public Health study that followed 121,342 people for up to 28 years found that each daily serving of processed meat increased the risk of dying prematurely from diseases such as heart disease by 20 percent.
Another study found that just one serving of processed meat a day -- about the size of a hot dog or a few slices of bacon -- can increase colorectal cancer risk by 21 percent. Processed meats have also been linked to diabetes and cancers of the pancreas, stomach, and bladder.
It's clearly not in the best interest of America's health to continue this event by NAMI -- an organization that pushes products so obviously linked to cardiovascular disease, the nation's leading killer, and colorectal cancer, which more than 1.5 million Americans are living with and is the third leading cause of cancer death in United States.
But NAMI's hot dog lunch is just a symptom of a bigger problem. The organization bills the event as "a great opportunity for hot dog and sausage providers to feature their hot dog and sausage products to media from all over the world, members of Congress and over 1,000 hill staffers and industry officials." This event -- when paired with NAMI's other efforts -- could cause widespread and long-term weakening of the nation's nutrition policy.
Since the expert report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was released in February, NAMI has been pushing to keep warnings against red and processed meats out of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which help shape all nutrition legislation -- such as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act -- that Congress ultimately approves.
Thankfully, more and more members of Congress are embracing and promoting the healthful plant-based diets that our country needs right now: A recent survey found that only 13 percent of Americans eat the recommended 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit each day and only 9 percent eat the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables.
Getting Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables can help lower the risk for both colorectal cancer and heart disease. A recent study published in JAMA found that a vegetarian diet protects against colorectal cancer. Another study found that increasing fruit and vegetable intake decreased the risk of dying from heart disease.
It's time to drop the dogs and get healthy on the Hill.