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Is eating Parma ham dangerous?

Is Parma ham good for our health or should we give up sandwiches and antipasto all at once?


The meat terror spread as the Health Organization (WHO) report has recently put cured meats, such as ham, sausage and salami on the list of carcinogens.


“Ham panic” reached Italy, but Italian food and farming groups promptly responded that Italian meat is the healthiest in the world, and the agricultural association Coldiretti credited the country's diet for one of the highest life expectancies in the world (80 years for men and 85 for women).


The WHO's report stated that each 50-gram portion of cured meat - usually beef or pork which has been transformed through processes like salting and smoking - increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.


Italians on average eat much less meat than that. According to the National Meat and Charcuterie Association, the consumption is estimated at 25 grams of cured meat a day.


Coldiretti also pointed out that the meat industry in Italy generates 32 billion euros a year in sales and provides work for 180,000 people. The damage to the country's economy could be very significant, therefore unjustified alarms should be avoided. 


Traditional butchers noticed that meat sales had already started to fall as it was reported by the association of nutrition specialists FIESA Confesercenti.  


People are confused, for this reason the health ministry has asked the national Commission for Food Safety to look into the matter.


The problem is that the epidemiological study assimilates absolutely different types of consumption and products, and it refers to a diet based on the assumption of 100 grams of red meat per day, and 50 grams of processed meat, but Italians eat on average less than a half of this quantity.  


Associations and meat producers ask now WHO to check if those warnings are valid for Italy, where people's life expectancy is the second in the world, its diet is universally recognized as the healthiest, and meat production and curing respect high quality standards.


Parma consorzio defended ham by saying that it's a product full of essential amino acids, polyunsaturated fats, fatty acids and antioxidants.    


Parma ham is totally different from processed meat or sausages. It respects a long seasoning process. It is a PDO product, controlled, genuine and completely natural. In its preparation, it is prohibited to use any additive and preservative. For the consortium the success of this product (8.8 million pieces production in 2014, of which 2.6 million are sold abroad) is due, not only to the taste, but to its ability to contribute, in a unique way, to a healthy diet. 

Giulia Lombardo

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