World health chiefs have warned that bacon, burgers and sausages are as big a cancer threat as cigarettes. The World Health Organisation is in the process of listing processed meat among the most cancer-causing substances, alongside arsenic and asbestos.
Shortly, fresh red meat will also join the ‘encyclopaedia of carcinogens’ and will probably be ranked as only slightly less dangerous than the preserved products.
The World Health Organisation is in the process of listing processed meat among the most cancer-causing substances, alongside arsenic and asbestos.
The new rulings will likely lead to new dietary guidelines and warning labels on packs of bacon.
Cancer claims more than 150,000 lives a year in the UK.
A definite link has been detected between bowel cancer, Britain’s second biggest cancer killer, and consumption of processed meat. Experts estimate that half of the cases can be prevented by healthier lifestyles.
As per the Department of Health’s scientific advisers red and processed meat ‘probably’ increase the odds of bowel cancer.
But the WHO is expected to go further by saying processed meat causes cancer.
The decision, due on Monday, follows a meeting of scientists from ten nations, including the UK, who reviewed all available evidence.
Smoking: Scientists are believed to have agreed processed meat is ‘carcinogenic to humans’, the highest of five possible rankings, shared with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes
Processed meat is made by smoking, curing, salting, or adding chemicals.
Examples are ham, bacon, pastrami and salami, as well as hot dogs and some sausages. Burgers are also expected to be included.
Red meat is expected to be one rung below, ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’.
Processed meat is seen as dangerous since preserving techniques can raise levels of cancer-causing chemicals.
It is estimated that if intake was cut to 20g a day – a rasher of bacon a day or an English breakfast once a week – almost 20,000 early deaths would be prevented in the UK each year.
Ruling: The World Health Organisation is in the process of listing processed meat among the most cancer-causing substances, alongside arsenic and asbestos.
Any advice to cut, or avoid, processed meat will be welcomed by cancer charities.
But it could have huge repercussions for the meat industry, which will be mindful that sugar sales fell last year after the WHO issued a warning on overconsumption.
The beef sector makes £2.8billion for the economy and provides 440,000 jobs in England.
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said the report defied ‘both common sense and dozens of studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer’.
The industry says red meat is rich in protein, a good source of vitamins, iron and zinc, and a key part of a balanced diet.
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