Because the world wasn’t a sad enough place already, a report released by the World Health Organization today has classified bacon and other processed meats like sausage and pastrami as “carcinogenic to humans.” That’s the WHO’s highest rank for cancer risk — where cigarettes, arsenic, and asbestos are categorized.
Though the “cured meat = cigarettes” news is sure to be terrifying to a bacon-obsessed world, what the WHO report really calls for is a balanced diet. Dr. Kurt Sraif of WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said the following:
For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed. In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.
Basically, you don’t have to cut it completely, but gnawing on salami every time you feel peckish probably isn’t wise. WHO-related headlines this morning are sure to blow things out of proportion a tad, while “moderation, moderation, moderation,” has been the early reaction from doctors outside WHO. Still, even scientists challenging the WHO report, like Dr. Ian Johnson from the Institute of Food Research, admit there is “epidemiological evidence for a statistically significant association between processed meat consumption and bowel cancer.”
So until the joint scientific task force from Jimmy Dean and Oscar Meyer can prove otherwise, the World Health Organizations’s classification of processed meat as carcinogenic to humans is likely to remain for some time. This announcement will probably create a stigma in the meat industry that “could take decades and billions of dollars to change.”