So Do Pickles Really Cause Cancer?

Relax: your local brand is probably fine
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2011 2:25 PM CDT
So Do Pickles Really Cause Cancer?
The fermentation process used in pickling some vegetables has been tied to cancer.   (Shutterstock)

The World Health Organization is sounding the alarm about yet another possible cancer-causer: your cell phone. But far less ominous items also crowd that list, including, yes, the humble pickle. Chinese studies have shown that populations which suffer a certain esophageal cancer also depend on fermented veggies for long periods each year. Scientists have linked the cancer to a fungi used in the fermentation process, and a 2009 review of such studies found that the regular consumption of pickled veggies doubles the risk for this form of cancer, writes Brian Palmer in Slate's Explainer column.

Pickled vegetables in South Korea and Japan are now taking the blame for other forms of cancer. But “this doesn't mean you should put on a biohazard suit and toss your pickles into the trash,” writes Palmer. The Chinese pickling process appears to prompt microbes to release carcinogens, but the big-name pickle makers over here use a different system, one that’s pasteurized. So there’s “no evidence” your supermarket pickles cause cancer, Palmer notes. What’s more, Americans eat about 4 pounds of pickles a year; in Asian studies, pickle fans munched on the vegetables throughout the week. (Read more pickle stories.)

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