WHO: Bacon Is a Carcinogen

Health agency issues controversial warning about processed meats
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2015 7:05 AM CDT
Stock photo   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The World Health Organization delivered bad news to bacon lovers Monday morning, declaring that the breakfast staple causes cancer. In fact, the report by a WHO research arm found that all processed meats, including sausages, ham, and hot dogs, are carcinogens, reports the Guardian. Specifically, the report says that 50 grams a day—about two slices of bacon—raises the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%, reports the BBC. The report also declared that red meat itself is "probably" carcinogenic, not going quite as far as its warning over processed meats. Still, the controversial assertions go further than those of other health groups such as the American Cancer Society, which have merely warned of possible links between the consumption of such foods and a heightened risk of cancer, reports the Washington Post.

"For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed," says a WHO doctor. Expect a furious pushback from the global meat industry, reports the Financial Times. Already, the North American Meat Institute has accused the WHO of "dramatic and alarmist over-reach." Most coverage cites coverage from medical experts on both sides of the debate, and the Guardian quotes a general practitioner who strikes a middle ground. "I think we have to take it within reason in that if you are stuffing in burgers and sausages and bacon every day, yes, you are at risk," she says. “If you have some healthy, locally made high-protein sausage once a fortnight, well, I personally don't consider that a risk." (You could also eat this instead of bacon.)

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