Bacon’s gonna kill ya!

At the back of last year, the WHO announced that they were placing bacon, along with sausages, ham, deli meats etc, in ‘group one’ of their list of carcinogens – the same category as tobacco.

Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation.           IARC, 2015

crispy bacon

There’s been a fair amount of hysteria and foot stomping, and probably a few tears. It’s taken until now for me to go in search of their specific objection to these meat products cos:

  1. I don’t eat that much meat – of that, only a little is processed
  2. I didn’t want to find out that I had to give up bacon. That would make me sad

But the time has come. I can live in ignorance no longer.

IARC Press Release

So, it seems their objections due to:

  • Nitrates – may form carcinogenic compounds in the body
  • Salt and fat – are risk factors for heart disease
  • Changes upon cooking – may produce carcinogenic compounds when cooked at high temperatures

Its report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.   BBC, 2015


To be clear: Daily bacon does not raise the risk to 18 percent — it raises the risk by 18 percent. According to the National Cancer Institute, an average American’s lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 4.5 percent. If you were to eat three slices of cooked bacon every single day, it would bump your lifetime risk from 4.5 to 5.3 percent. That’s a difference of about one percent from daily bacon consumption.   Huffington Post, 2015

So, I think I’m at peace with this finding. I don’t feel the need to make any massive changes to my diet. We had some sausages last week, but they are the first since Christmas. And as for bacon, when was the last time I had bacon? Probably Christmas again. There’s always a chorizo in the fridge to add a little flavour and fat to the odd dish, but it’s used infrequently.

It’ll probably cross my mind next time the offending items find themselves in front of me. I might put a little less ham in Mr Eleanor’s sandwich. I might more carefully check the ingredients of packaged meats. I might put one less rasher in my once-in-a-blue-moon bacon butty. But probably not.


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