On 26 October, an international panel of experts convened by the WHO held that eating processed meats like hot dogs, ham and bacon raises the risk of getting colon cancer, and that consuming other ‘red meats’ increased the risk as well. The report produced by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, has placed processed food in the Group I category that includes alcohol, tobacco smoke and asbestos. Based on the analysis of 800 studies from around the world, the agency has classified processed meat as ‘carcinogenic to humans’ and added that red meat is ‘probably carcinogenic’ with links to colon and stomach cancer.
Processed food has been defined as anything transformed to be preserved, thereby facilitating ease of consumption. This includes sausages. Red meat includes beef, veal, pork, mutton, lamb and horse. Their consumption is now linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer. The agency has made no dietary suggestions and said that it did not have data to define how much red meat and processed meat is dangerous but claimed that the risk rises with the amount of consumption.
Meanwhile, the report has been received with wide interest and significant resistance from meat lovers from various corners of the world. Public health experts have called for restraint, as it is an already an established fact that an increased intake of red meat has harmful consequences for health. They claim that the study calls for moderate consumption of meats as against inferring that a salami could be as harmful as a cigarette.