The UN's World Health Organization ranked processed meat, including sausages, pastrami, beef bacon, and salami, in the same category as alcohol and tobacco.
According to a report released today by the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO), processed meats such as sausages, pastrami (basterma), beef bacon, and salami are a major cause of cancer, and can be as harmful as alcohol, arsenic and tobacco, placed in the same category by the organisation.
The report, issued by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, states there is enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens, as these products have a causal link to bowel cancer.
Each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily, say the experts, increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. The organisation has also stated red meats are "probably carcinogenic," though there is limited evidence.
The scientists said, however, that this was not a reason to give up on processed and red meat consumption, but rather to cut down on them. "For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed," Dr Kurt Straif from the WHO said.
The term processed meat refers to meat that has been modified to extend its life or change the taste through smoking, curing, or adding salt or preservatives. It includes sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky (basterma), bacon and ham as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.
Red meat, including beef, lamb and pork, was classified as a "probable" carcinogen in its group 2A list that also contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weedkillers.
Main image by cyclonebill, Creative Commons license.