Parents should not to put ham and other processed meat into their children's lunchboxes to help them avoid developing a cancer risk later in life, experts have warned.
Eating too much processed meats such as salami, hot dogs and bacon over decades can raise the risk of bowel cancer, they said.
AdvertisementAccording to a report by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), there is 'convincing evidence' of the link between processed meats and bowel cancer in later life.
While there is no specific research on eating the meats in childhood, the charity said the evidence in adults was too strong to ignore.
The report said that children should therefore adopt a healthy eating pattern from the age of five and avoid processed meat.
"If children have processed meat in their lunch every day then over the course of a school year they will be eating quite a lot of it," the Scotsman quoted WCRF's children's education manager Marni Craze as saying.
"It is better if children learn to view processed meat as an occasional treat if it is eaten at all," Craze added.
Processed meats are usually manufactured using sodium nitrite, a colour fixer that is carcinogenic.
David Bartolo, a consultant colorectal surgeon at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, said: "There is a lot of evidence that diet and bowel cancer are related. While processed meats contain salt which affects blood pressure and is a factor in strokes, they also contain nitrates which we've known are promoters of cancer in the stomach and gullet. But I struggle to say it's processed meat rather than ordinary meat, which is causing the problem.
"Probably the most important factor in bowel cancer is obesity. As body weight rises so do cases of bowel cancer. Food is to some extent toxic to us so it is a matter of getting the right balance.
"People should increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables they eat, take exercise and not eat red meat every day. In an ideal world, if we were living like our ancestors, it would be a treat eaten perhaps once a week," he added.