The additives are used to conserve and protect against bacteria, and give sliced ham which would otherwise look pale and grey its pink hue.
But the nitrites can producer nitrosamines considered ‘probably carcinogenic’ by scientists from the
MP for the Loiret region Richard Ramos, a former restaurant critic, yesterday tabled a draft bill banning the addition of nitrites and nitrates in raw ham – such as Parma ham – from 2023.
Other meat products including cooked ham, andouillette, boudin, terrine or rillettes, the ban would come into effect from 2025 to give time to producers to ensure health safety.
If passed, the legislation would compel industrial ham to come with a health warning on the packet like those for cigarettes – and would make France the first European country to impose such a ban.
Pink ham could soon disappear from France as Emmanuel Macron’s own MPs seek to ban the use of nitrites in food products in the country. The additives are used to conserve and protect against bacteria, and give sliced ham which would otherwise look pale and grey its pink hue
Mr Ramos, the author of the bill, told the French parliament: ‘Ham is a health danger. We know that now. Nitrite salts in charcuterie kill French people.
‘After a serious parliamentary investigation, everyone recognises that these products kill. If this proposal does not pass, as an elected official, I wonder what use I am.’
It came after a parliamentary committee heard evidence from Professor Axel Kahn, a geneticist who heads the French Anti-Cancer League.
He estimated that there were 4,000 cases of colon or stomach cancer per year in France which were attributable to eating proceeded meat.
‘In France, it is estimated that every year between 1,200 and 3,400 deaths by colorectal cancer are down to charcuterie with nitrites. The toll is up to 4,00 if you count stomach cancers,’ he said.
Prof Kahn told MPs that around 80 per cent of French charcuterie contains nitrates or nitrites, adding: ‘There is no doubt that it’s urgent to end the treatment of pork meat with nitrates and nitrites.’
But charcuterie producers argue that nitrites are essential to avoid botulism, an illness caused by toxins from a bacteria that attack the body’s nerves.
But the nitrites can producer nitrosamines considered ‘probably carcinogenic’ by scientists from the World Health Organisation who believe they promote stomach and colon cancer. MP for the Loiret region Richard Ramos, a former restaurant critic, yesterday tabled a draft bill banning the addition of nitrites and nitrates in raw ham – such as Parma ham – from 2023
The proposed ban has led to a backlash from the French Federation for the Charcuterie Industry (FICT), the makers of French processed meats, who last month began legal action against Anti-Cancer League, Foodwatch France and the nutrition app Yuka.
Their suit seeks to prevent the anti-nitrate lobby from making ‘misleading allegations’ in their demands for removing the additives from their meats.
FICT argues no law should be passed before the release of findings of a study on the safety of nitrites as a food preservative by France’s health safety agency early next year.
The makers of French processed meats also want Yuka to remove a petition to outlaw nitrites, which appears on its app when users scan pork product labels and has amassed 300,000 signatures.
Benoît Martin, co-founder of Yuka, said: ‘This is an unacceptable attempt to stifle information. Our mission is to help everyone make the best choice for their health.’
The public row is deeply humiliating for the French government, which seeks to promote health eating.