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Physicians Committee targets children's hospitals with campaign to ban hot dogs

The group said hot dogs shouldn't be served to patients because they are the top choking risk for children and are also linked to high risk of colon

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

The nonprofit Physicians Committee is urging children's hospitals in six cities to ban hot dogs, a food they say is hazardous to people's health and poses a choking risk for children.

The group, comprised of 12,000 physicians, put up billboard advertisements near the Children's Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham, Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. It also has created a hashtag campaign on social media, dubbed #HazardousHotDogs, to raise awareness online.

The group said hot dogs shouldn't be served to patients because they are the top choking risk for children and are also linked to high risk of colon cancer.

The Physicians Committee sent strongly worded letters urging hospital CEOs to take hot dogs off patient menus in time for March, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

[Also: Hospitals face ad blitz over Chick-fil-A, other fast food in cafeterias]

The six targeted hospitals are in a region dubbed "the colon cancer corridor," a group of nine states located close to each other with high death rates from colorectal cancer: Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

At least three children's hospitals located in the corridor have already taken hot dogs off their patient menus, including West Virginia University Children's Hospital. Hospitals that have done so won't be targeted with advertisements, the group said.

Bus shelter ads were posted near The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City and Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital in Nashville, and Nashville's bus fleet is carrying interior advertisements. Also, 44 buses in Little Rock are carrying the messaging, which includes the hashtag.

The advertisements will run until March 5, the committee said.

"Children's hospitals can become leaders in preventing diet-related diseases by increasing the offerings of healthful, plant-based options that are popular with patients--like veggie pasta and fruit smoothies," says Karen Smith, senior dietitian for the Physicians Committee. 

According to a new report by the committee, 72 percent of surveyed children's hospitals across the country serve hot dogs to patients. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has warned processed meats, including hot dogs, are "carcinogenic to humans" and no amount is safe for consumption. A recent study in JAMA Surgery said colon cancer is increasing in young people ages 20 to 34 years old.

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This isn't the first time the committee has taken aim at hospital menus to try and raise awareness about the role they feel hospitals should take in promoting healthy eating.

A campaign last year shined the spotlight on fast food in hospitals, specifically the chain Chick-fil-A, with an ad campaign from the committee that carried the slogan, "Eat more chickpeas,"  a play on the chain's well-known slogan, "eat more chicken." The group sought to highlight the health risks of consuming fast food and the benefits of consuming more plant-based foods. Moreover, the committee said they hoped the campaign would lead hospitals and physicians to implement more healthy eating options and remove all fast food from their facilities, improve health in their surrounding communities.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn