Health Chiefs: ‘Red Meat As Likely to Cause Cancer as Smoking’

The Associated Press
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Bacon, sausages and burgers are as likely to cause cancer as smoking, the World Health Organisation is set to announce. Also due to join its ‘encyclopaedia of carcinogens’ is fresh red meat, which has been deemed only slightly less risky. The warnings could lead to new warning labels on packs of meat.

With the war on tobacco all but won, and the war on sugar well underway, health bosses are moving on to their next targets and appear to have settled on red meats. Earlier this year Labour’s farming spokesman, vegan Kerry McCarthy called for meat to be treated like tobacco, with a public health campaign to stop it being eaten.

It looks as though she is about to get her way: the Department of Health has already declared that eating red meat and processed meat “probably” increases the risk of bowel cancer, but according to the Daily Mail the World Health Organisation is set to go a step further and insist that there is a definite link.

They are understood to have taken the decision to list all processed meats, including those which are smoked or dried as well as those preserved with chemical additives, as “carcinogenic to humans” – the highest possible ranking. The meats will share the designation with arsenic, asbestos and alcohol and cigarettes.

Expected to be included are ham, salami, pastrami, bacon, some sausages including hot dogs, and burgers.

Red meat is expected to be designated one rung below, as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

According to Cancer Research UK, bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 10 per cent of all deaths from cancer. Approximately 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, and figures show that in 2012 alone, 16,187 people died from the disease.

However, health chiefs have estimated that cutting red meat consumption to 20g a day, equivalent to a rasher of bacon a day or one English breakfast per week, would save 20,000 lives a year. And they have advised that processed meats should be avoided completely.

But those in the meat industry have ridiculed the idea, and freedom campaigners have slammed it as yet another example of authority figures telling people what they can and can’t do.

Speaking to Breitbart London, Andrew Allison, head of campaigns for the Freedom Association said: “I am sceptical of any report that says 20,000 early deaths in the UK can be prevented if we cut down meat consumption by the equivalent of one rasher of bacon a day. They are just plucking figures out of thin air.

“However, this will no doubt be used by the health lobby to campaign for more taxes on the food we enjoy, and also as an excuse for schools to clamp down further on what parents can feed their children in packed lunches.

“Like most reports of a similar nature, I take it with a pinch of salt, and I hope the Government does too.”

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said the report defied “both common sense and dozens of studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer.”

Barry Carpenter, president of NAMI added: “Red and processed meat are among 940 substances reviewed by International Agency for Research (IARC) found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard’.

“IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but don’t breathe air (Class I carcinogen), sit near a sun-filled window (Class I), drink wine or coffee (Class I and Class 2A,), eat grilled food (Class 2A), or apply aloe vera (Class 2B).

“Risks and benefits must be considered together before telling people what to eat, drink, drive, breathe, or where to work.”

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