‘Two rashers of bacon a day raises your risk of cancer’, blasted the headline which accompanied the grim news that ruined breakfast for millions of us last week.
While we have always accepted that a couple of pieces of Denmark’s finest, wedged between a round of thick sliced white is not the healthiest way to start the day, it certainly is the tastiest. But following the almost inevitable study from the World Health Organisation (WHO) there will be some who may well just be reaching for a bowl of granola with skimmed ‘milk’ in future.
The WHO has concluded processed meat - anything that has had chemicals added with a view to giving it a longer life - is carcinogenic, meaning it is as harmful to us as fags, asbestos and arsenic.
How long will it be before a family pack of leanback displays a public health warning or an image of some poor blighter’s cancerous bowels? While such shock tactics may well be a long way off it is safe to say that public awareness of the issue is like to become a matter of priority to health trusts up and down the land.
To top it off red meat - steaks and joints - are also on the hit list and have been classified as ‘probably carcinogenic’, an unhelpful label if ever there was one due to its ambiguity. To add to the confusion further, scientists reiterated that red meat is also full of vitamins which do us a whole lot of good.
Clear? I thought not, which is why quality butchers everywhere last week rushed to extol the virtues of a good piece of sirloin and to reassure us that they don’t deal in processed meat.
Will the WHO’s findings turn us into a nation of lentil-loving vegetarians? It is too early to tell but I am sure the fact a cheap supermarket banger is now deemed to be as bad for our health as a Benson and Hedges will cause some to go down the Linda McCartney route.
Our food industry has had plenty of knocks over the decades and has managed to recover from most, including the horse meat scandal which looked like it could irreparably damage supermarkets but still the majority of us amble down the aisles of the frozen section on a regular basis.
I for one won’t be giving up red meat or even the occasional low grade sausage or burger because of what we have had confirmed to us in the last week as I enjoy an occasional binge on cheap and cheerful grub as much as the next (fat) man.
If we took heed of every piece of health advice we would only eat lettuce and would live in a wi-fi free cave. I have long respected the maxim of everything in moderation, while not always strictly adhering to it, and don’t intend to completely banish the grub I love from my general diet.
But as someone who fights a constant battle with an ever expanding waistline, I appreciate that obesity and bad diet are issues which will test society for a long time to come so it is about time that we had some conclusive evidence about the perils of eating too much rubbish.
It allows us grown ups to make informed choices.