The meat industry is furious and bacon-lovers concerned about a new report declaring that processed meat causes cancer.
The report was issued on Monday by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, who recently evaluated the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat.
According to the report, “a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries… classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans… and processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans,” concluding that “each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.”
“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 Dr Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Programme. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”
The IARC Working Group considered more than 800 studies, making it the largest such study “conducted over the past 20 years.”
”These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat,” says Dr Christopher Wild, Director of IARC. “At the same time, red meat has nutritional value. Therefore, these results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations.”
For the purposes of the study, red meat referred to all mammalian muscle meat such as beef, goat, lamb, mutton, pork and veal.
Processed meat refers to “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermenting, smoking or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.”
Examples of process meat included: bacon, beef jerky, corned beef, ham, hot dogs, and sausages as well as “canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.”
According to the report, “A summary of the final evaluations is available online in The Lancet Oncology,” although the link didn’t work when we tried it earlier. Additionally, “the detailed assessments will be published as Volume 114 of the IARC Monographs.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization. Its mission is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control.
The Agency is involved in both epidemiological and laboratory research and disseminates scientific information through publications, meetings, courses, and fellowships.