A group representing 12,000 doctors has gone to court to stop the Los Angeles and Poway school districts in California from serving students processed meats—including hot dogs, pepperoni, and luncheon meat.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine contends in its lawsuit that the foods in question have been linked to cancer and should not be served to children. It argues that doing so violates the California’s Education Code, which mandates that school lunches must be of the "highest quality" and "greatest nutritional value possible."
The suit also names the California Department of Education as a defendant.
Among the evidence put forth by the Physicians Committee is a recent report from the World Health Organization stating that processed meats are "carcinogenic to humans."
"As parents, we want what’s best for our kids," says Tracy Childs, a Poway parent and a plaintiff in the suit. "Providing healthy school meals is a no brainer. Not only do healthful foods help students learn and focus in the classroom today, but they can protect our children’s future health."
Another study, published by the National Cancer Institute, found that young people have double and quadruple the risks of colon and rectal cancers, respectively, compared with those born in the 1950s. The change is attributed to low-fiber diets, high consumption of processed meats, and lack of physical activity.
"Colorectal cancer is now skyrocketing among young people," says Susan Levin, the Physicians Committee director of nutrition education. "California should ban processed meats now to take steps to bring down rates in Generation Z and beyond."
Those who consume the most processed meat also have an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a 2009 National Institutes of Health study.