As a breast cancer survivor, I’ve seen many tasteless examples of “pinkwashing” over the years. But KFC’s new “Buckets for the Cure” campaign takes the cake. The chicken chain is peddling pink buckets of chicken-available in stores through the end of May-ostensibly to raise funds for breast cancer research.
This is the same company that recently introduced the fat and sodium nightmare known as the Double Down sandwich-slices of bacon and cheese tucked between two chicken fillets.
Finding a cure for breast cancer is certainly a noble goal. But so is preventing cancer in the first place. And this won’t happen if consumers are encouraged to eat unhealthy foods by the bucketful.
A Washington Post blog entry about Buckets for the Cure reminds us that according to the National Cancer Institute, “studies have shown that an increased risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer is associated with high intakes of well-done, fried, or barbecued meats.” Researchers have long known that cooking certain meats-including chicken-at high temperatures can create carcinogenic chemicals.
Even KFC’s supposedly healthier grilled chicken is problematic. When researchers tested samples of grilled chicken from six different KFC stores, they found PhIP, a chemical that’s classified as a carcinogen by the federal government, in every single sample. PhIP has been linked to several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, in dozens of studies.
We also know that being overweight-a risk if you make too many trips through fast-food drive-throughs-can increase your chances of developing cancer. On its Web site, the American Cancer Society warns that being overweight or obese raises the risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
If anyone doubts the connection between diet and health, I’m proof that changing how you eat can save your life.
When I first learned that I had breast cancer, I was devastated. I didn’t know where to turn or whom to trust. For much of my life, I regularly ate meat, eggs and dairy foods. After my mastectomy, though, I knew that I had to make some changes in order to prevent my cancer from coming back.
My son suggested that I switch to a vegan diet.
The research backs him up. Studies conducted in England and Germany, for example, have shown that vegetarians are 40 percent less likely to develop cancer than meat-eaters are. A Harvard study of nearly 136,000 people found that people who frequently eat skinless chicken-supposedly the “healthiest” kind-have a 52 percent higher chance of developing bladder cancer.
And a Colorado State University study released in March found that diets high in plant foods-specifically fruits, vegetables and soy-can cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 30 percent.
But I don’t need any more studies to tell me that vegan foods are wholesome and beneficial. I can feel the difference for myself.
Since I switched to a vegan diet, my energy level has increased, my cholesterol has decreased and I feel healthier overall. And I have peace of mind from knowing that I’m much less likely to have a relapse of breast cancer. I went vegan 18 years ago and have been cancer-free ever since.
KFC no doubt hopes to make a killing by selling many, many pink buckets over the next month. But it is doing consumers a real disservice by glossing over the fact that regularly eating what’s in those buckets can increase your odds of being diagnosed with cancer in the first place. My advice to anyone who wants to beat breast cancer is to load up on fruits, vegetables and other healthy plant foods-and kick the KFC bucket.
Elaine Sloan lives in New York City. She wrote this for PETA.