So I am sitting in my kitchen eating breakfast, sipping coffee, reading a newspaper and watching the morning news (I like to call this multi-tasking) when a news alert comes on “Up next -Is what you are eating for breakfast killing you?” I stop eating my egg whites and turkey bacon and put the fork down. I want to sip my coffee but not knowing exactly what the culprit is, I have to wait for the commercials to finish before I possibly swallow the next bullet. I sit there quietly with my hands folded like a woman on death row waiting for the executioner to unlock her cell.
The term “up next” has a different meaning on news programs because I had to sit through the weather and sports before they got to this critical issue. Apparently, a Swedish committee conducted a study that concludes the daily consumption of bacon or sausage (or both if you are eating Denny’s grand slam breakfast) can increase your chance of getting pancreatic cancer to 1.7 percent. Now let’s be clear here, the chance of your contacting pancreatic cancer without ever touching bacon or sausage is 1.4 percent. Cancer of the pancreas is a rare form of the disease that usually doesn’t present symptoms till it reaches stage 4, so it’s serious stuff. But, we are issuing “Breaking News” alerts, and scaring people with a study that revealed just a .3% increase in the risk of cancer. That is .3 percent; the decimal is not in the wrong place. It is not a typo. This is the result of a study that some government paid for – and it’s making news! And worse, it made my eggs get cold!
This I had to research! What this Swedish group found as the source of evil in our breakfast meats was the dreaded nitrates. This is not news. We have been told for years that processed meats preserved with nitrates are not a good thing. Having a ham sandwich for lunch? You’re doomed. Eating a hot dog? It’s over……. Or is it?
If I had a time- travel vessel, I would pack up this group of Swedish scientist and take them with me back to my childhood. (They should eat a good breakfast because it’s a long trip.) What they would see is my sister, brothers and I gathered around our Italian mother making meatballs with a combination of ground beef, pork and veal. She would soak white bread in milk, add the seasonings and mix it all together with her bare hands. We would all get to roll the meat into balls while gathering up the left over chunks and eating them – raw. I guess the massive amount of salt we would shake on them is what saved us. (Before nitrates, salt was the preferred preservative. Now, it’s just something we are not supposed to have.)
When we were done, we would rinse our hands (no anti-bacterial soap here) go outside and chase the mosquito truck down the street and play hide and seek in the toxic fog (until my mother found out). Oh, the fun we had! On hot days, we ate broken chunks of ice the milkman gave us off the rusty floor of his truck. We would ride our bikes without helmets to the neighbors where we drank Kool-Aid from colorful tin cups that were generally passed around from kid to kid. Bacon, if you could afford it, was consumed without guilt or reservation, especially if it was served with a Jersey tomato, on soft white bread with mayo. And what a treat, Italian sausage, onion and peppers were (and still are) on a fresh roll.
Our daily youthful activities would have caused this Swedish study committee to wake up at night in a complete sweat. If they thought a .3% increase was newsworthy, there wouldn’t be enough airtime to post the warnings that would come from their findings. Now today, I strive to eat what I consider healthy. I would never advocate eating raw meat or playfully inhaling chemical sprays. And before I hear a lecture, my kids wore helmets while riding their bikes (at least within sight of me). But my point is, that over 50 years later, my sister, brothers and I are thankfully all still here, in spite of not having dangerous breakfast warnings coming at us from our black and white TV.