New York Times Tries to Tie Lox to Cancer, But Readers Resist
Just before Hannukah, the New York Times published an article warning of the health risks of eating fried potatoes. In May, the same newspaper prompted reader complaints with the strange claim that “Brisket remains oddly off limits for one large segment of the population: home cooks.” And now the Times has targeted a third traditionally Jewish food — lox.
The Times Science section carries an article posing the question of whether “eating smoked fish, such as smoked salmon or whitefish,” increases “the risk of colorectal cancer or other cancers.”
The article appears beneath the online headline “Do Lox and Other Smoked Fish Increase Cancer Risk?” It is a reminder of the old newsroom saying that if the headline is phrased as a question, the answer is usually “no.”
The Times answers its own question with the observation, “One reason for the uncertainty is that Americans tend to eat far less lox, smoked trout, smoked whitefish and the like compared to how much bacon, deli meat and sausage they consume.”
The Times article, by Sophie Egan, goes on, “Because smoked fish is not a central part of the typical American diet, not enough data is available for a statistically meaningful statement about the relationship between smoked fish and cancer risk, according to a spokeswoman from the National Cancer Institute.”
Excuse me. Have Sophie Egan or her editor ever attended a bris? Or broken a fast after Yom Kippur? Are they suggesting that bagel-and-lox-eating or bacon-avoiding Jews are somehow less-than-typical Americans?
Many commenters on the Times website suggested that they would keep eating bagels and lox notwithstanding any unsubstantiated Times fearmongering about the supposed cancer risks. One reader, whose comment was recommended by 112 other Times readers, wrote, “There are some pleasures in this life that I will not give up. Lox on my bagel is one of them.”
Another Times reader commented, “oy vey! what’s next…gefilte fish?!”
Personally, I am guessing that chicken soup or chopped liver will be the next item on the Times list of Jewish foods to cast shade at. We will see. In the meantime, the Nine Days of Av are approaching, during which some Jews abstain from meat. There are no shortage of good and timely reasons to enjoy some lox on your bagel. But to the already long list, one might add doing so to spite The New York Times — and to prove it, once again, woefully wrong on the Jewish food front.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.