Now that a World Health Organization agency has classified them as carcinogenic, bacon, ham and other processed meats could require warning labels in California.
Proposition 65, passed in 1986, requires California to compile a list of “chemicals known to increase cancer risk.” State health officials say they are reviewing the WHO's findings and not sure if they will add processed meats.
"I think the likelihood is pretty great," says Bruce Nye, managing partner at Adams Nye Becht, who defends companies in Proposition 65 cases. "Generally speaking, the lead agency in California takes the position that if IARC [the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer] has listed a chemical as a human carcinogen, it has to be added to the Proposition 65 list."
The California and WHO list both include arsenic and asbestos, as well as wood dust and "salted fish, Chinese style." In fact, state health officials can’t point to a substance that made the international list and not the state list.
If the meats are added, Nye says everyone from grocers and butchers to the diner down the block will have to post a notification.
"It would have an obligation to provide a clear and reasonable warning that you are about to be exposed to a chemical or substance known to the state of California to cause cancer," says Nye.
Nye thinks red meats could also make the list. The WHO labeled them as potentially carcinogenic.
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