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I've recently seen the data that suggests processed meat is carcinogenic, but I don't know if what I'm buying is the same thing:

http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/cooked-chicken---turkey/sainsburys-cooked-chicken-slices--tikka-160g

The only ingredient that concerns me is the 'Sodium Triphosphate'. Because this ingredient acts as a preservative in a way (it allows the chicken to retain moisture), does that classify it under processed meat?

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According the WHO (the organization that keeps a great list with everything that's definitely carcinogenic):

"Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood."

All the way down there's also a point about the manner of preservation

"24. Different preservation methods could result in the formation of carcinogens (e.g. N-nitroso compounds), but whether and how much this contributes to the cancer risk is unknown."

The WHO doesn't go this far, but based on compounds in some processed meat that are carcinogenic by itself (smoke and N-nitroso compounds), I'd assume a large part of the carcinogenic risk of processed meat can be explained by the presence of these compounds.

The sodium triphosphate that's in your chicken is technically a preservative. However, sodium triphosphate preserves the meat by retaining water, slowing down the drying process.

Sodium triphosphate itself is perfectly safe, I think the limits on the quantity that you can add are present mainly because it can be used to cheaply increase the weight of meat/fish. It's also GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA.

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  • I couldn't find that last quote on the WHO page, quite interesting. I think I'll be better off cooking from fresh anyway, it's a little cheaper. Thank you. – ilovechicken202 Sep 26 '16 at 21:36
  • WHO is not an institute - they are a UN organisation specialised in health. – Lucky Sep 27 '16 at 0:38

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