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Bringing home the bacon

It’s time for a back-to-school pop quiz.

Name one country in the developed world that allows Group One carcinogens to be served to children in schools.

Need a hint? It’s not Russia. That nation’s little comrades-in-the-making dine primarily on borscht and pelmeni in school to power their brains to memorize their culture’s adorable wise sayings. My personal favorite is, “Ya na ehtu sobaku syel.” That roughly translates, “I ate the dog on that.” Last I heard, dog wasn’t a Group 1 carcinogen.

It’s not China. There’s no need to poison China’s children when that nation’s four decades, no fuss, no muss, “one child” policy wiped-out an estimated 330 million children (mostly girls) through abortion. The government recently relaxed that heinous policy due to lack of females, but the Chinese government has an ingenuous new way of controlling anyone who refuses to tow the party line once she makes it out of the womb alive. It’s called “re-education camps.” China’s modern twist on internment (concentration) camps currently “houses” as many as three million human beings, the vast majority of which are Muslims. What’s a few more jay-walking Chinese citizens? (Remind me, again: Why do we want to do business with the Chinese government?)

Of course, it’s not North Korea. When Li’l Kim Jong-un gets up from the table, there’s nothing left to fed even his prized Pungsan puppies, let alone the nation’s school children. North Korea’s school children are starving. Some will die today.

The correct answer to my quiz question? The United States of America, of course. This is the only developed country in the world that allows public school systems to serve carcinogenic substances to our children on a regular basis.

Before you label me a crackpot and accuse me of being off my rocker (there’ll be plenty of time for that later) hear me out. In 2014, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified processed meat as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. It also classified red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat, but not dog) as a probable carcinogen. IARC is the antonymous cancer research arm of the World Health Organization. I admit I’m as skeptical about the United Nations and its various subsets including WHO and IARC as the next gal, but let’s look a little closer at its findings.

The IARC arrived at its conclusion after 22 experts from 10 countries (including the U.S.) reviewed more than 800 studies. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. (That’s the equivalent of eating four strips of bacon, or one hot dog.) For red meat, there was evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer. Let’s face it, there seems to be an abundance of all those cancers, not just in the U.S., but also in those prosperous nations that followed in our beef-eating footsteps.

Five years ago, when the results of IARC extensive study first came out, the news media spent about a nanosecond reporting the unambiguous findings of an organization to which we pay the big bucks to coordinate international studies on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis and strategies for cancer prevention. Exactly 193 nations took the extensive research to heart and banned serving processed meats in their schools. We decided to ignore it. I admit, I’d wrestle a bear for a fried bologna sandwich — yes, there’s a good reason I’ve been accused of being full of bologna — but somehow through my carcinogenic fog I couldn’t help but wonder one thing.

Allow me to present it to you, dear reader, as the second question of my back-to-school pop quiz:

What the hell is wrong with us?

After recently re-reading this research, I decided to do a deep on-line dive in hopes of finding WHO’s retraction. I didn’t find that, but I did find a whole sausage pallet-load of pushback. My apologies in advance for any glimmer of false hope that last sentence may have suggested.

First up on the pushback campaign was a professional piece produced by Vocativ. It sounded promising. Their tagline reads, “See the world through new eyes.” Is Vocativ a multidisciplinary research institute with expertise in epidemiology, laboratory sciences, biostatistics and bioinformatics, I wondered breathlessly, hoping I could justify an Egg McMuffin for breakfast? Unfortunately, that’s the description of IARC.

According to their very own website, Vocativ is an award-winning producer of long and short-form video that uses proprietary technology to source unexpected stories from around the globe. Allow me to mine that last sentence for the gold nugget — producers of long and short-form video. Not an expert in bioinformatics among them. As I pondered the possible culprits that sponsored this “unexpected story,” the message I gleaned from their highly professional video attempting to counter the IARC’s findings is that in light of all the carcinogens we Americans are already exposed to on a daily basis, a few extra ain’t gonna hurt nobody. The massive pushback campaign virtually buried the IARC’s findings. I only found the report because I was specifically looking for it.

It’s not hard to figure out which factions of our nation’s powerful food industry are behind the pushback or why our government remains silent on the issue of public health. Before I offer up my well-reasoned explanation, I need to confirm that the construction of those interment camps reportedly built during the Obama administration really were nothing but fake news.

Next question: Would you send your children or grandchildren out for a day at the swimming pool without slathering them with sunscreen?

Would you light up their menthol cigarette for them before sending them off to a playdate with their little friends?

Would you knowingly send them to school in a building with exposed asbestos pipes? (That’s exactly where I spent my formative years.)

Maybe we all need to reconsider those bacon double cheeseburgers we planned to serve for dinner tonight.

Patra Taylor has been a columnist and features correspondent for the Charleston Mercury since 2002. Please visit her website at

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