NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Carcinogens Occur Naturally in Food Supplies

January 14, 2003

All the "carcinogens" found in the foods comprising a traditional holiday dinner occur naturally in foods and pose no hazard to human life, say researchers from the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH).

None of these chemicals are made by man or added to the foods, yet in large enough doses, they do cause cancer in laboratory animals.

  • Consumers choosing to worry about eating these chemicals should understand the human diet is full of naturally occurring rodent carcinogens.
  • Residues of synthetic rodent carcinogens in our diet are unlikely to pose a risk of cancer in the quantities we consume on a daily, monthly or yearly basis.
  • The data is inadequate to evaluate human risk at low doses, and the uncertainties are enormous.
  • Many of these naturally occurring rodent carcinogens are natural pesticides -- chemicals that plants produce to repel or kill predators.
  • Of the approximately 10,000 such natural pesticides occurring in the diet, only about 60 have been tested in rodent experiments.
  • These chemicals are found in a wide variety of food plants: Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cherries, chili peppers, cocoa, garlic, grapes, kale, lentils, lettuce and radishes.

The primary risk factor in holiday meals -- other than the risk of food poisoning from the improper handling or preparation of food -- is getting too much of a good thing. A hungry holiday eater can easily consume 2,000-plus calories at one sitting. A consistent intake of excessive calories contributes to obesity, with its attendant higher risk of heart disease.

Source: Editorial, "Health Panel Finds All-Natural Carcinogens Galore in Holiday Foods," American Council on Science and Health, October 2002.


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