A new and controversial billboard in Indianapolis, Ind., questions the safety of eating hot dogs, basically equating them with cigarettes when it comes to cancer risk.

Hot dogs surely come with several strikes in the demerit column: high sodium, fat and calorie content, along with nitrates and nitrites (even in

“natural” hot dogs) and the heterocyclic amine (HCA) formed when meat is cooked at high heat. While the link between smoking and cancer is far, far more definite than the link between hot dogs and cancer, studies have showed an increased risk of colorectal cancer among regular eaters of processed meats, like hot dogs, bacon and pepperoni. Consumption of processed meats has also been linked to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Billboards are blunt instruments, though; nuance isn’t their specialty. The hot dog billboard is no exception, depicting grilled hot dogs in a cigarette pack next to the phrase, “Warning: Hot dogs can wreck your health.”

The billboard was designed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Cancer Project, which promotes the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, among other things. (The American Cancer Society is among others recommending that Americans reduce their consumption of processed meats.) The American Meat Institute, not surprisingly, takes exception to the billboard, saying that hot dogs “come in a variety of nutrition and taste formulas and … are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals.”

What do you think?

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