Tag Archives: hot dogs

Hot dogs, cold cuts and red meat classified as carcinogens

Bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts are under fire: The World Health Organization threw its global weight behind years of experts’ warnings and declared Monday that processed meats raise the risk of colon and stomach cancer and that red meat is probably harmful, too.

Meat producers are angry, vegetarians are feeling vindicated, and cancer experts are welcoming the most comprehensive pronouncement yet on the relation between our modern meat-eating lifestyles and cancer.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, analyzed decades of research and for the first time put processed meats in the same danger category as smoking or asbestos. That doesn’t mean salami is as bad as cigarettes, only that there’s a confirmed link to cancer. And even then, the risk is small.

The results aren’t that shocking in the U.S., where many parents fret over chemicals in cured meats and the American Cancer Society has long cautioned against eating too much steak and deli.

But the U.N. agency’s findings could shake up public health attitudes elsewhere, such as European countries where sausages are savored and smoked ham is a national delicacy.

And they could hurt the American meat industry, which is arguing vigorously against linking their products with cancer, contending that the disease involves a number of lifestyle and environmental factors.

While U.S. rates of colon cancer have been declining, it is the No. 2 cancer for women worldwide and No. 3 for men, according to the WHO.

A group of 22 scientists from the IARC evaluated more than 800 studies from several continents about meat and cancer. The studies looked at more than a dozen types of cancer in populations with diverse diets over the past 20 years.

Based on that analysis, the IARC classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans,” noting links in particular to colon cancer. It said red meat contains some important nutrients, but still labeled it “probably carcinogenic,” with links to colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

The agency made no specific dietary recommendations and said it did not have enough data to define how much processed meat is too dangerous. But it said the risk rises with the amount consumed.

An analysis of 10 of the studies suggested that a 50-gram portion of processed meat daily — or about 1.75 ounces — increases the risk of colorectal cancer over a lifetime by about 18 percent.

An ounce and three-quarters is roughly equivalent to a hot dog or a few slices of bologna, though it depends on how thinly it is sliced.

Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer in the U.S. is about 1 in 20, or 5 percent, according to the cancer society. By the WHO’s calculations, having a cold-cut sandwich every day would only raise that to around 6 percent.

Experts have long warned of the dangers of certain chemicals used to cure meat, such as nitrites and nitrates, which the body converts into cancer-causing compounds. It is also known that grilling or smoking meat can create suspected carcinogens.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Dr. Kurt Straif of the IARC said in a statement. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

The cancer agency noted research by the Global Burden of Disease Project suggesting that 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are linked to diets heavy in processed meat. That compared with 1 million deaths a year linked to smoking, 600,000 a year to alcohol consumption and 200,000 a year to air pollution.

Doctors in rich countries especially have long counseled against eating lots of red or processed meat — and not just because of the cancer danger but because of the heart risks from the saturated fat and sodium.

The WHO researchers defined processed meat as anything transformed to improve its flavor or preserve it, including sausages, beef jerky and anything smoked. They defined red meat to include beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.

The report said grilling, pan-frying or other high-temperature methods of cooking red meat produce the highest amounts of chemicals suspected of causing cancer.

“This is an important step in helping individuals make healthier dietary choices to reduce their risk of colorectal cancer in particular,” said Susan Gapstur of the American Cancer Society, which has recommended limiting red and processed meat intake since 2002, and suggests choosing fish or poultry or cooking red meat at low temperatures.

The North American Meat Institute argued in a statement that “cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods.”

Independent experts stressed that the WHO findings should be kept in perspective.

“Three cigarettes per day increases the risk of lung cancer sixfold,” or 500 percent, compared with the 18 percent from eating a couple slices of bologna a day, said Gunter Kuhnle, a food nutrition scientist at the University of Reading.

“This is still very relevant from a public health point of view, as there are more than 30,000 new cases per year” of colon cancer, he said. “But it should not be used for scaremongering.”

Go For the Food: Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit

To New Yorkers like me, going to Coney means hopping on a Coney Island-bound subway train to an amusement park at the beach. But on a trip to Detroit, I learned that “coney” means something entirely different.

In Michigan and a few other places, coney is a generic term for hot dogs topped with onions, mustard and chili.

Brooklyn’s Coney Island has its own hot dog culture thanks to Nathan’s Famous, which has been selling dogs there since 1916. But chili is not a typical New York topping for a dog — we mostly stick to mustard and sauerkraut. Still, I try to sample local cuisine wherever I go, and in Detroit that means trying coneys sold by two long-time rivals: Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island.

The stores stand side by side on West Lafayette Boulevard in Detroit’s downtown, which is in the very early stages of attempting a revival following finalization of the city’s bankruptcy. Streets are clean, there’s abundant private security, and cheap real estate is attracting investors and entrepreneurs. Lafayette and American are near many downtown attractions, including the famous sculpture of boxer Joe Louis’ fist, the historic Westin Book Cadillac hotel, the Riverwalk and Campus Martius Park. It felt perfectly safe as I arrived for my taste-test, and yet, my visit was marked by a series of memorable moments that you wouldn’t expect at, say, a suburban diner or trendy cafe.

For starters, in the foodie world, photographing your meal is so routine that it generally attracts no attention. But when I began photographing my coney at Lafayette, I got a long, bewildered look from the pair of somewhat scruffy gentlemen seated next to me. And when I asked our server for a receipt, he looked at me blankly, then tossed his notepad on the table, muttering, “Write it yourself.” Believe it or not, this all added to the charm of the place.

The dog itself at Lafayette was a surprise to my palate. The flavors were stronger than I’d expected — quite a bite to the onions and chili. On the advice of my dining companion, a 20-something Michigan native who recently moved to Detroit, I also had a Vernors ginger ale, a brand that originated in Detroit in the 19th century. It was fantastic, better than big-name brands and artisanal sodas. We also shared some good french fries.

But boy, was I full when we went to American for the second dog. Our near-dread at another round must have been apparent from our expressions, because the woman who came to take our order took one look at us and said something like, “You’re doing a comparison, aren’t you?”

We nodded guiltily.

“You should have come here first!” she scolded, then added: “Actually it’s good you came here second. You’ll leave with a better taste in your mouth!”

Turns out this wasn’t just a waitress — this was American’s co-owner, the brassy and dynamic Grace Keros, whose grandfather, a Greek immigrant, began selling hot dogs from a pushcart on the site in 1917. His brother opened Lafayette next door in 1924, but Lafayette is no longer owned by the family, and Keros wants it known that the dogs and chili are completely different.

Everyone I met in Detroit seemed to agree, saying that by tradition, locals only ever go to one place or the other. But in the name of investigative journalism, I had to try both, even though I wasn’t really psyched for the second round. But a funny thing happened on the way to my stomach: I liked it. To my palate, American’s coney had a slightly milder flavor, a bit more like the dogs I’m used to, dare I say, at the REAL Coney Island in Brooklyn. Not that Lafayette was bad, mind you — and as a non-local, I’m not pledging lifelong allegiance to either place. I later learned that Anthony Bourdain visited Detroit in 2013 and declared the best coneys to be at a spot called Duly’s, but there was no way I could handle a third.

When I later circled back to take exterior photos, a man was pacing back and forth outside both stores, raging incoherently at the skies. I dared not enrage him further by whipping out my camera, so I had to come back a third time for pictures. It seemed like a fitting coda to an only-in-Detroit adventure.

If You Go…

AMERICAN CONEY ISLAND: 114 W. Lafayette, Detroit; 313-961-7758, http://www.americanconeyisland.com/home.htm .

LAFAYETTE CONEY ISLAND: 118 W. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-964-8198.

Chicago vs. NYC foodie smackdown: Who eats better?

The James Beard Foundation recently announced that its awards ceremony honoring the best chefs and restaurants is moving to Chicago after 24 years in New York City.

It’s more proof that Chicago is home to one of the country’s hottest restaurant scenes.

But who’s got the better eats?

Here’s a foodie smackdown between the Windy City and the Big Apple.

• MUST-GET (but you probably won’t) RESERVATION

Chicago: Grant Achatz’s Next

New York: David Chang’s Momofuku Ko

• VIRAL PASTRY

Chicago: Wonut (doughnut meets waffle) by Waffles Cafe

New York: Cronut (croissant meets doughnut) by Dominique Ansel Bakery

• MODERNIST MAESTRO CHEF

Chicago: Grant Achatz

New York: Wylie Dufresne

• PIZZA

Chicago: Deep-dish

New York: Thin crust.

• EPIC FOOD HALL TO BE GLUTTONOUS AT

Chicago: Chicago French Market

New York: Eataly

• FEMALE CHEF WITH ANIMAL-THEMED EATERY

Chicago: Stephanie Izard, Girl and the Goat

New York: April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig

• HOT DOGS

Chicago: A walk through the garden — mustard, onions, pickle relish, dill pickle spear, tomatoes, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. And NEVER ketchup.

New York: Nathan’s in Coney Island, with mustard on a plain white bun.

• ODE TO FARM-TO-TABLE DINING

Chicago: Paul Kahan’s The Publican

New York: Dan Barber’s Blue Hill

• BAR SCENE TO BE SEEN AT

Chicago: Grant Achatz’ Aviary

New York: Wallflower

• HIPSTER FOODIE NEIGHBORHOOD

Chicago: Restaurant Row on Randolph Street in West Loop

New York: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

• TOP CHEF AWARDS (from the Beards, of course)

Chicago: Rick Bayless (1995), Charlie Trotter (1999), Grant Achatz (2008) and Paul Kahan (shared with New York’s David Chang in 2013)

New York: Larry Forgione (1993), Daniel Boulud (1994),  Jean-George Vongerichten (1998), David Bouley (2000), Lidia Mattichio Bastianich (2002), Eric Ripert (2003), Mario Batali (2005), Alfred Portale (2006), Dan Barber (2009), Tom Colicchio (2010), Daniel Humm (2012), David Chang (shared with Chicago’s Paul Kahan in 2013)

• TOP RESTAURANT AWARDS (also from the Beards)

Chicago: Charlie Trotter’s (2000), Frontera Grill (2007)

New York: Bouley (1991), Le Cirque (1995), Union Square Cafe (1997), Le Bernardin (1998), The Four Seasons (1999), Gotham Bar & Grill (2002), Chanterelle (2004), Gramercy Tavern (2008), Jean-Georges (2009), Daniel (2010), Eleven Madison Park (2011), Blue Hill (2013)