May 9/Prepared Foods’ May 2011 “Market Watch” -- Ready-to-eat (RTE) meats have been the target of a number of healthy eating campaigns in recent years, with health advocates citing high sodium levels, among other issues. Now, research suggests certain RTE meats at least are relatively free of carcinogenic compounds. (Sadly, bacon is not among them.) J. Scott Smith, professor of food chemistry, and a research team at Kansas State University investigated a range of RTE meat products to assess their levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs)--carcinogenic compounds found in meat fried, grilled or cooked at high temperatures. Other studies have indicated humans who consume large amounts of HCAs in meat products have increased risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.

Smith’s research, published in Meat Science, found hot dogs, pepperoni and deli meats are relatively free of the carcinogenic compounds, though bacon and rotisserie chicken (particularly the skin) have higher levels of the cancerous material. Pepperoni, in fact, had the least HCA content (0.05ng/g), followed by hot dogs and deli meat (also in the range of 0.05ng/g), an amount so low that researchers concluded the consumption of such products contributed very little to HCA intake.

Fully cooked bacon, however, registered 1.1ng/g, with rotisserie chicken meat containing 1.9ng/g, both still well shy of the scale-tipping 16.3ng/g in rotisserie chicken skin. As the researchers explained, “Chicken skin contains more fat and protein and less moisture, and HCA levels tend to increase as moisture decreases.”pf