WHO announces processed meat is carcinogenic

Posted on the 23rd October 2015

The World Health Organisation has announced that processed meat is ‘carcinogenic to humans’, ranking it amongst some of the most cancer-causing substances in the world, adding further weight to Animal Aid’s call for it to be treated in much the same way as tobacco.

The new ruling sees sausages, bacon, ham and other processed red meats ranked alongside cigarettes, asbestos and arsenic, with unprocessed red meat categorised as ‘probably carcinogenic’. According to a press release from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, particular concern has been raised about the link between processed red meat and bowel cancer. It concludes that ‘each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal [bowel] cancer by 18%.’

This was the central focus of our report No Safe Limit, published in 2013, which also drew attention to the underhand tactics employed by the meat industry to cast doubt upon research linking processed red meat with this often-fatal disease – tactics reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry.

Bowel cancer remains the second biggest cause of cancer-related deaths in the UK after lung cancer, with as many as a fifth of cases thought be due to the consumption of processed red meat. Given the known links to cancer, it is all the more alarming that a Freedom of Information request to every acute NHS hospital in the country, made earlier this year by Animal Aid, revealed that all but one regularly serves processed red meat to patients, even those treating bowel cancer patients. This is despite the £1.1bn cost to the NHS of funding bowel cancer treatment each year, not to mention the enormous suffering caused to patients and their families by this disease.

This listing of processed red meat amongst the most carcinogenic substances on the planet vindicates Animal Aid’s No Safe Limit campaign, which for the past two years has been calling for a ban on sales to children, health warnings at the point of sale and the removal of such products from hospitals. Our lobbying and political pressuring for sales of processed red meat to be treated like that other major cancer-causing product – tobacco – remains on going.

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