Headlines shared widely on social media misleadingly tell readers New York City will “ban” hot dogs. A city spokesman told us a plan to phase out government purchases of processed meats and reduce purchases of beef “would not impact hot dogs” sold “at baseball games, street vendors, restaurants, etc.”
New York City recently unveiled what it has dubbed its own “Green New Deal” — a reference to congressional Democrats’ proposal to address climate change.
The city’s plans are part of a larger effort known as “OneNYC 2050,” which also touches on issues such as economic inequalities and health. The initiative calls for a “nearly 30 percent additional reduction in emissions by 2030.” It contains numerous components – including a mandate that large buildings cut emissions, or face penalties, and a goal to “convert government operations to 100 percent clean electricity.”
But in some circles on social media, thousands of users shared headlines zeroing in on one supposed target of the plan: hot dogs.
“NYC To Ban Hot Dogs and Processed Meats To Improve Climate,” reads the misleading headline posted on a network of radio websites.
At least 20 various iHeart.com pages published the same story, which has an equally disingenuous opening sentence: “New York City is the first city in the United States to eliminate processed meats.”
In reality, the changes outlined apply only to meat purchases by the city government.
“This policy would apply only to City purchases. The plan is to phase out completely purchases of processed meats by agencies, and reduce how much agencies spend on beef by 50 percent,” a city spokesman, Phil Ortiz, told FactCheck.org in an email. “This would affect, for example, hamburgers in NYC public school lunches. It would not impact hot dogs at baseball games, street vendors, restaurants, etc.”
It’s not clear when the changes would be made; we asked and Ortiz said: “We will have more to say about the implementation in the coming weeks.”
The iHeart.com story only hints at what is truly happening in the second paragraph, which says: “The plan will cut purchases of red meat by 50 percent in its city-controlled facilities such as hospitals, schools, and correctional facilities.”
Other websites, such as thedcpatriot.com, carried similarly misleading headlines. And another post that appeared on an iHeart.com website — “NYC Banning Hot Dogs As Part Of Green New Deal” — further distorts the facts.
“Could this be the end of the dirty water dog?” it reads. “Who doesn’t love a dirty water dog before or after a show in the city … What are your thoughts on this proposed ban on hot dogs and processed meats?”
The full “OneNYC report” report doesn’t even specifically mention hot dogs. It does, however, repeatedly note that the changes regarding processed meats and beef relate to city operations.
The report states at one point that the city will lead “by example on climate change by ending City purchases of unnecessary single-use plastic foodware and phasing out the purchase of processed meat, cutting beef purchasing in half.”
It also notes that processed meat “has been linked with increased risk of cancer and is often high in saturated fat and sodium which is linked to heart disease. Processed meat will be replaced by healthier proteins, including an increase in plant-based options.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, does indeed categorize processed meats as a “Group 1” agent, which it defines as being “carcinogenic to humans.”
“In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer,” also known as colon cancer, the WHO reports.
While “Group 1” also includes tobacco smoking and asbestos, the WHO notes that being in the same classification “does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous.” Instead, the classification is based on “the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.”
Red meat, meanwhile, is listed in “Group 2A” — “probably carcinogenic to humans.” On that, the WHO says “the classification is based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer as well as strong mechanistic evidence.”
Livestock do indeed affect climate change, as we’ve reported before. Cows, for example, produce and release methane, a greenhouse gas, as a result of digesting food. Almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are methane production from livestock. Methane is about 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a century.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network. Our previous stories can be found here.
“Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1—123.” International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization. 25 Mar 2019.
McDonald, Jessica. “The Facts on the ‘Green New Deal.’” FactCheck.org. 15 Feb 2019.
“OneNYC 2050: Building a strong and fair city.” City of New York. April 2019.
Ortiz, Phil. Assistant Director for external affairs, NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. Email to FactCheck.org. 25 Apr 2019.
“Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat.” World Health Organization. October 2015.