Opinion: ‘Why I wont be binning sausages and bacon due to cancer warnings’

Picture by Anthony Devlin/ PA Wire.
Picture by Anthony Devlin/ PA Wire.
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Despite the headlines, it should be pointed out that bacon is not the new tobacco.

Diets that include 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increase the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18 per cent according to an attention grabbing World Health Organization (WHO) report released last week.

It concluded that processed meats, such as bacon, sausages and ham, do cause cancer and that red meats in general are “probably carcinogenic”.

Social media responded with meat-filled messages of defiance like “you can’t take my bacon away from me, science” and “you can’t speak like that about bacon. Take it back”.

But surely anyone who eats processed meats – modified to change taste or extend shelf life – in copious amounts daily had reason to reevaluate their diet long before the WHO report.

The common sense argument surely still stands that eating a varied and balanced diet is the answer. There is no need to bin the bangers just yet.

The full English is not dead, hot dogs will not be forever banished from the football, bacon butties wont be exiled and the world will not end.

All this hammed up furore tells the average Joe is that eating a lot of something, which has never been deemed particularly healthy, every day is still not a good idea.

At the end of the day red meat does have nutritional value too and is a major source of iron, zinc and vitamin B12 while processed meat should be considered a treat.

Cancer Research UK has also urged caution, stating that eating foods in moderation is key. So I, for one, will not be calling it quits on the odd bacon and sausage treat.


- The World Health Organization’s recent report suggests 34,000 deaths from cancer every year could be down to diets high in processed meat.

- Around 1million deaths from cancer are caused by smoking and 600,000 attributed to alcohol each year.

- Processed meat has been modified to extend shelf life or change taste through smoking, curing or adding salt or preservatives. Such meats include bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef and ham.

- The chemicals involved in the processing could be increasing the risk of cancer. High temperature cooking can also create carcinogenic chemicals.