The war on bacon has gone global.
In a report published Saturday, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has officially classified the consumption of processed meats as carcinogenic. Bacon, sausage, and ham among them.
After assessing over 800 studies, the agency’s 22 international experts filed processed meats under its “Group 1” list of carcinogens, where it has joined the ranks of tobacco, asbestos, and diesel fumes. The experts concluded that a person’s relative risk of colorectal cancer increases 18 percent for every 50 grams of processed meat they consume daily (absolute risk statistics have not been released by the IARC). That’s equivalent to about six strips of cooked bacon.
The report also concluded that red meat was “probably carcinogenic,” giving credence to the USDA’s recent recommendation that Americans maybe consider eating less red meat. (Representatives from heavily meat-producing states, such as Alabama’s Mike Rogers, valiantly attempted to defend the virtues of a meat-centered diet at a recent congressional hearing on suggested USDA guidelines.) The IARC found limited evidence supporting a link between red meat consumption and colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.
The IARC, however, doesn’t make dietary recommendations — it’s a research institution. If there’s going to be anti-meat legislation (there probably won’t be) then it will be on individual governments to act. More likely, it’ll just be on individuals to make their own choices.