Chicken, ham -- what else isn't 'safe'?

Chicken, ham -- what else isn't 'safe'?

Meat lovers are probably now reluctant to order their favourite dishes following the recent announcement by the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer, which stated that processed meats such as ham, bacon and sausages can cause bowel cancer.

I am a big fan of processed meats. But besides what the WHO labelled as carcinogenic to humans, how can we be sure that consuming something like chicken is safe?

We have heard about the consumption of hormone-laden poultry that could be linked to early puberty. As a parent, discovering that my child was entering puberty early was alarming.

My eight-year-old girl was diagnosed with precocious puberty after her doctor X-rayed her hand and wrist and found that her bone had aged too quickly. Instead of chicken, the paediatrician who specialises in endocrinology recommended she eat pork.

According to the doctor, the early growth spurt can cause linear growth to cease too early and result in short stature in adulthood. Not all kids who eat chicken will enter puberty too soon, but only those who are sensitive to the hormone. My daughter was advised to stop consuming chicken -- including eggs and chicken stock cubes -- as well as sweets, which are all her favourites, for three months to see whether these kinds of foods led to her early puberty. However, eggs are allowed if I am sure that they are really organic.

The doctor said the increase in early puberty is due to a combination of possible factors -- hormones in food, lifestyles of individuals, above-average weight gain and chemicals in the environment.

She suggested that kids should use consumer products that are made for children only. Adult products contain chemicals that can mimic oestrogen in the body, increasing the likelihood of early puberty.

What caused my daughter to worry was when the doctor talked about the treatment for children who enter puberty early: a monthly injection of medication in order to delay physical development.

We have sought medical advice as much as possible. She has avoided eating chicken and chicken-based products. To be safe, her younger sister also follows the same practice.

It's difficult to ensure that organic food available in the market is truly chemical-free but somehow we can cut down on chemicals at home. One thing we have done is use organic shampoo for kids, and use natural substances for dish washing and floor cleaning.

My girls at first complained when banned from eating what they like. However, when they heard about the injections, their whining was over.

This case reminded me of my childhood when people my age hardly heard about unhealthy foods. As far as I can remember, we were never asked not to eat this or that. All things -- savoury dishes and desserts alike -- were allowed by our parents. At school, there were not as many kinds of sweets available like today.

I assume that the foods in my childhood were more healthy and chemical-free so they were never banned by parents. 

Nowadays, convenience foods and ready-made products have become a regular part of everyday life. In the supermarket, there are a huge variety of colourful packaged crispy snacks and chocolates, luring children on many shelves. Of course, most are unhealthy for kids.

Having been far away from chicken for three months, my daughter was recently diagnosed as having normal physical development. However, I don't take the latest diagnosis for granted and don't think she will be totally free from early puberty. The solution is a change in habits -- to keep avoiding consuming chicken unless the animals are organically raised.

So the WHO's recent cancer report is likely to make us meat and bacon lovers turn to something else like chicken or seafood. But then again, the next important question is whether or not they are safer for health?

Sasiwimon Boonruang is a writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Sasiwimon Boonruang

Writer for the Life section

Sasiwimon Boonruang is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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