Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: French Parliament bill relating to the consumption of charcuterie products containing nitro additives
Overview: France plans to reduce the use of nitrites in processed meats after the French National Agency for Sanitary Safety of Food, Environment and Labor (ANSES) confirmed that consumption of these additives is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Population: 65.6 million
Food policy category: Nutrition, food safety, preventive health
Program goals: To reduce the risk of colorectal cancer associated with nitrite consumption.
How it works: Nitrites are used to prolong the shelf life of processed meats and to limit the development of bacteria that can cause salmonellosis, listeriosis, and botulism. ANSES recommends reducing the use of nitrites to the lowest levels possible while maintaining other measures to reduce the risk of bacteria growth. The agency also recommends limiting the consumption of processed meats to 150 grams (5.3 ounces) per week.
A specific plan for the reduction or elimination of nitrites in processed meats has not yet been released but will be finalized within the next 12 months.
Progress to date: The French parliament approved a bill in February 2022 that proposed a gradual reduction in nitrite use in cured meats and called for a review of the potential health effects of nitrite consumption. The review, conducted by ANSES and published on July 12, 2022, confirmed the World Health Organization’s 2015 findings that nitrite and nitrate consumption is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Why it is important: It has been confirmed that the consumption of nitrites increases the risk of colorectal cancer, and it is suspected that it increases the risk of other cancers, as well. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer worldwide and accounts for 10 percent of all cancer cases in France.
The popularity of charcuterie in France has led to consumption of processed meats in quantities almost double what ANSES recommends. A reduction in nitrite use in processed meats, along with limiting consumption of these foods, will be beneficial to human health.
Program/Policy initiated: The French government will present parliament with a plan to reduce or eliminate the use of nitrites in processed meats in the fall of 2022.
Point of contact: N/A
Similar practices: A coalition in the United Kingdom is advocating for an outright ban on the use of nitrites in bacon and ham.
Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been conducted.
- Avoidable Colorectal Cancer Cases in Denmark – The Impact of Red and Processed meat (Cancer Epidemiology)
- Blow for French Ham, Cold Meats After Nitrates Health Warning (France 24)
- France Acts to Cut Nitrites in Meat After Cancer Risk Warning (Just Food)
- France Confirms Link Between Processed Meats and Cancer as it Seeks to Cut Use of Nitrates (Sky News)
- France Considers Ban on Nitrates in Cured Meats — Will Charcuterie Ever Be the Same? (Food & Wine)
- Nitrate (National Cancer Institute)
- WHO Report Says Eating Processed Meat is Carcinogenic: Understanding the Findings (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
- Bye Bye, Pink Ham: Nitrates in Cured Meats Linked to Cancer, French Health Agency Finds (Euro News)
- A Coalition Call to Ban Nitrites From Our Meat (New Food Magazine)
- Colorectal Cancer Statistics (World Cancer Research Fund International)
- The End of Pink Ham? France to Cut Use of Nitrite in Cured Meats (Reuters)
- France (International Agency for Research on Cancer)
- France Says Non To Nitrites—and the Country’s Meat Industry Is on Board (Saveur)
- France’s Health Authority Confirms Connection Between Charcuterie and Cancer Risk (Food & Wine)
- France to Cut Nitrites in Food After Agency Confirms Cancer Risk (Reuters)
- IARC Monographs Evaluate Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat (International Agency for Research on Cancer)
- Nitrites in Bacon: MPs and Scientists Call for UK Ban Over Cancer Fears (The Guardian)
- Reducing Dietary Exposure to Nitrites and Nitrates (ANSES)
- Why Nitro Additives in Deli Meats are on Borrowed Time (Le Monde)