Processed meat causes cancer: WHO

By Alice Foster

- Last updated on GMT

Processed meat has been classified as “carcinogenic to humans”
Processed meat has been classified as “carcinogenic to humans”

Related tags Red meat Meat Nutrition

The meat industry has defended eating processed meat as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of the cancer risk today (October 26).

Processed meat has been classified as “carcinogenic to humans” ​in a report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Experts concluded that each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, by 18%.

The research group, which published its findings in the Lancet, ranked processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen alongside substances such tobacco, alcohol and asbestos.

View from Meat Advisory Panel

“What we do know is that avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer.”

  •  Professor Robert Pickard, member, Meat Advisory Panel

Their report also said red meat was “probably carcinogenic to humans” ​and highlighted associations with to colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.

‘Public health importance’

IARC monographs programme head Kurt Straif said: “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.

“In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

Ahead of the report’s publication, Meat Advisory Panel member Professor Robert Pickard said that “no one food” ​gives people cancer.

“What we do know is that avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer,” ​Pickard.

cancer research
Credit: Cancer Research UK

Smoking and alcohol risks

“The top priorities for cancer prevention remain smoking cessation, maintenance of normal body weight and avoidance of high alcohol intakes.”

He highlighted a large European study which showed that bowel cancer rates were similar in vegetarians and meat-eaters. 

“Choosing a meat-free diet is a lifestyle choice – it is not vital for health,”​ he added.

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) nutrition manager Maureen Strong said: “We’ve always said that red and processed meats can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet. 

“Meat is a natural source of protein and nutrients like iron, zinc and B vitamins. 

“The government recommends that people do not eat more than 70g of red or processed meat per day and that’s what the vast majority of us eat in the UK.”  

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Posted by Dr. Robert F. Woods,

Please tell what Prof. Rickard#s remuneration (or other benefits) is from the Meat Advisory Panel. Does that panel ever recommend that people eat LESS meat?

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Trevor Dale

Posted by Trevor Dale,

This will not stop my passion for the great British banger, a juicy steak or my Sunday morning bacon butty.

Life is about balance....

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