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Advocacy Group Sues Two California School Districts for Serving Students Processed Meats

April 24, 2017

The nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, based in Washington, DC, filed a lawsuit on April 12 to stop schools in California’s Los Angeles Unified School District and Poway Unified School District from serving students processed meats – including hot dogs, pepperoni, and luncheon meat – which are linked to colorectal cancer.

The lawsuit alleges that serving foods that have been linked to cancer in school lunches violates California’s Education Code, which mandates that school lunches must be of the "highest quality" and "greatest nutritional value possible." Processed meats are available daily on many California public school menus.

Tracy Childs and Steven Sarnoff, who have two children who were Poway Unified School District students, and Jennifer Mack, a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher, are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the California Department of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Poway Unified School District.

The World Health Organization recently released a report announcing that processed meats are "carcinogenic to humans." The authors highlighted a meta-analysis that found an 18 percent increased cancer risk per 50 grams of processed meat — the equivalent of one hot dog or two strips of bacon—consumed daily.

"Colorectal cancer is now skyrocketing among young people," says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., Physicians Committee director of nutrition education. "California should ban processed meats now to take steps to bring down rates in Generation Z and beyond."

The Physicians Committee sent both school districts a toolkit with information on removing processed meats from their menus, along with a booklet featuring affordable, student-tested plant-based recipes that lower the risk for colorectal cancer and heart disease. The Physicians Committee has also offered to send experts to assist with menu planning for the upcoming school year.

Source:  Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

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