Death by bacon

Processed meats labelled carcinogens


Photo Courtesy of MCT Photo

The blanket emerges browned and crispy, having bathed the meatloaf underneath with its succulent fat. (Food styling by Lisa Schumacher) (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Jenna Bao, Associate Editor

It is no secret that bacon is not the healthiest food. However, most were surprised when the World Health Organization (WHO) classified bacon and other processed meats as carcinogens, things that cause cancer.

Sophomore Anita Pan said, “My initial reaction [to the report] was that I’m not surprised. I figured this would happen eventually, I mean think of bacon. It’s bad for you! All that saturated fat, and it drips with oil!”

A recent report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, puts the meats in Group 1, for things that have sufficient evidence in to suggest that they cause cancer. This decision was based off of over 800 studies from all over the world.

While cigarettes are also in Group 1, the group emphasized that they were far from equivalent in harm.

In a briefing for the Science Media Center, nutrition researcher at the Institute of Food Research Dr. Ian Johnson said,” The classification reflects the strength of the evidence for an effect…The effect is much smaller than, for example, that of cigarette smoking on the risk of lung cancer.”

The meats are specifically connected to cholesterol (colon) cancer. Eating 50 grams of processed meat per day, about 2 slices of ham, can increase chances of colon cancer by 18 percent. However, WHO also clarifies that the original chance of getting that cancer is not high.

According to CNN, head of WHO’s cancer agency Christopher Wild,” 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.”

WHO considers processed meats to be those that are salted, cured, or smoked. Unprocessed red meats are also classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Pan said,” This won’t affect anything [for me]… We [as a society] do eat too much meat, but there’s a movement these days to go vegan and eat… acai bowls.”