A national nonprofit health advocacy group is targeting a longtime popular festival in Michigan’s lower thumb area and its signature food: bologna.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PRCM) made up of 17,000 doctors, has asked the organizers of the annual Yale Bologna Festival to change its name to the “Yale Phony Bologna Festival.”
During the festival, the PRCM plans to sponsor a mobile billboard, according to a news release, warning festival-goers and residents with a message that “Bologna is cancer-causing baloney.”
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The mobile billboard is expected to drive around the Yale area from 11 am to 7 pm on July 29.
The group of physicians is targeting the festival because it “promotes processed meat.”
PCRM said in its news release that studies have shown that processed meat “increases the risk of colorectal cancer and other diseases.”
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“This festival sends a dangerous message to Yale residents and thousands of festival attendees,” wrote Noah Praamsma, a registered dietitian with the Physicians Committee, in a letter sent to Mayor Brenda Krzak, Mayor Pro Tem Colton Middleton, and Yale Area Chamber of Commerce President Kim Cowhy, according to a news release.
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The Yale Chamber of Commerce issued a news release late Wednesday afternoon saying they are proud of the festival, now in its 33rd year.
“Our festival brings joy and happiness to all attendees and gives the Yale Chamber of Commerce an opportunity to give back to the community,” according to the newsletter. Join us for a great family weekend where we will be happy to say “We are full of Bologna and proud of it.”
In addition, the group of doctors wants the festival to forget the beloved signature of the town “Yale Bologna.” Instead, PCRM wants them to serve a “phony” version of bologna.
“Instead of serving bologna, Praamsma wrote, organizers should serve a plant-based (“phony”) version of bologna, such as Tofu Bologna, or one of the many other healthy vegan options made at home.”
The group cited the American Cancer Society’s 2023 estimate of 4,630 new cases of colorectal cancer in Michigan and about 1,740 deaths.
Paraamsma also wrote to Elizabeth King, Director and administrator of the St. John’s County Health Department. Clair Greg Brown, requesting that those permits be denied to applications for food vendors that sell processed meat, including, bologna.
In an email to the Free Press, the St. Clair County Health Department (SCCHD) acknowledged that they received the physician group’s letter asking them to deny those food permits.
“SCCHD cannot implement the “requested action” because we have no legal authority to deny a temporary food permit application based on the type of food (unless it is an illegal food product),” says Liz King, health officer director. “Our role is to ensure that all food is prepared and served safely, according to the guidelines under the Michigan Food Code. In addition, we support making healthy food choices and adopting healthy lifestyles, and we encourage members of the public to talk to their doctors about appropriate nutritional recommendations.”
Attending Bologna, about 70 miles northeast of Detroit, is a big part of the festival at Yale. This year, according to festival organizer Cheryl Wadsworth, 2 tons of bologna manufactured by C. Roy’s, famous for making Yale Bologna, will be served at the festival. Visitors to the festival can rip bologna rings, sandwiches and bologna on a stick.
Now in its 33rd year, the Yale Bologna Festival runs from July 28-30 and takes place on the streets of the city of Yale. Like many local festivals, there will be a parade and fireworks. There are also food and drink vendors, musical entertainment and the naming of the King and Queen of Bologna. Every year the highlight of the festival is the outdoor races.
C. Roy’s is a family operation in Yale that produces Yale bologna. According to its website, Yale Bologna is different than, say, the one whose first name begins with an “O” and whose second name begins with an “M.” It is being produced in Yale, since 1924 by the Roy family.
Think of Yale Bologna more like a summer sausage texture. It’s sold in a ring shape and C. Roy says it’s made with “premium beef and spices.”
According to the owners, their “Yale Bologna” is a secret family recipe made mostly of beef with a small amount of pork as a binder.
Based in Washington DC, the PCRM advocates for plant-based diets and ethical scientific research. PRCM says it recently filed a complaint with the West Virginia state health official to cancel an upcoming hot dog festival and also asked the Macon Bacon baseball team in Macon, Georgia to change its name and ballpark menu.
Contact Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press food and restaurant writer and send food and restaurant news and tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter. Subscribe to the Free Press.