There’s no need to cut out processed and red meats

People need to calm down. On October 26, the World Health Organization confirmed that processed and red meats are known causes of cancer. Processed meat is known as a Group 1 carcinogen (right alongside tobacco and asbestos) “a cause of cancer,” and red meat as a Group 2 carcinogen, which is “probably a cause of cancer.” These categories relate only to the strength of scientific evidence behind these claims, and are independent of assessing the level of risk of such carcinogens.

After this information was released, #freethebacon started trending almost immediately, non-researchers were sarcastically claiming air as carcinogenic since “everything else is cancerous at this point,” and some people were expressing their concerns for the Alberta beef industry. The WHO isn’t telling anyone to stop eating their beloved processed meat, steak, or bacon; they only recommend reducing personal intake to avoid a risk of cancer.

Nutritionally, it’s frightening that there’s a population so dependent and loyal to processed meats. Really, if lowering your risk of colorectal cancer is as simple as cutting down your bacon intake even slightly, why wouldn’t you do it? There are many other reasons to cut down processed and red meat intake: there contain high levels of saturated and trans fats, a crazy amount of sodium, and potentially dangerous additives. Also, fresh meat (or seeds and legumes!) taste way better anyway.

While the WHO has no confirmed safe limits of consumption, the risk of developing colorectal cancer “generally increased with the amount of meat consumed.” The carcinogenic ingredient in processed meats is nitrites, a colouring, flavouring, and preservation agent that gets converted to poisonous nitrosamines. Natural Selections processed meat still contains nitrites even though such information isn’t directly on the label. Cultured celery extract, an ingredient containing a load of nitrates, which get converted to nitrites after the meat is cooked, is added in to their meat. So really, their “natural” product can still cause cancer. Go figure.

So, don’t freak out. While your bacon breakfast, great big deli ham sandwich lunch, and hot dog dinner may have a impact on your risk of colon cancer, having a moderate amount of these foods probably won’t affect you too much. Read into claims such as these, and do your research. And please, stop #freethebacon. Bacon’s pretty gross anyway.

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