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Bacon, Sausage Pose The Same Cancer Risk As Smoking: WHO To Give Warning On Carcinogenic Effects Of Processed Meat

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Lovers of bacon, sausages and burgers may soon need to think twice about their favorite food. The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to issue a warning about the cancer risks posed by processed meats, which were found to be as harmful as cigarettes.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) initiated a gathering of health officials in France to talk about existing studies that delved into processed meats, particularly looking at their risk for containing cancer-causing substances.

The results of the meeting may soon place processed meat alongside asbestos and arsenic in the list of the most cancer-causing agents. Such move may rattle fast food industries, farming sectors and meat manufacturers as new dietary standards and warning labels on processed food products may be enforced.

IARC is said to particularly put processed meat at the top of the carcinogenic risk list, with red meat following in second place. The expected announcement has caused criticisms from various concerned groups, including the U.S. livestock sector.

"If this is actually IARC's decision it simply cannot be applied to people's health because it considers just one piece of the health puzzle: theoretical hazards," said Barry Carpenter, the president of the North American Meat Institute.

Examples of processed meat that are about to receive a thumbs-down verdict include bacon, ham, hot dogs, salami, pastrami, and some types of sausages. Burgers are also anticipated to make it to the list.

Generally, meat has high concentrations of fat. Aside from that, its red color is said to affect the lining of the intestines.

In the past, processed meat has been ruled to cause one in 30 mortalities and was considered hazardous due to the potentially cancerous preservation methods it undergoes.

Shalene McNeill from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association commented that existing scientific data does not back up a causal link between any type of cancer and any form of meat. McNeill also noted that cancer is a complex disease and that not even the most intelligent people could completely comprehend it. She added that despite the billions of dollars spent on international researches, no single food has been identified to cause or treat cancer.

The IARC has declared that it would keep mum about the media reports. The group will release the outcome of the gathering on Monday, Oct. 26, together with a report to be published in The Lancet Oncology.

Photo: Kim Ahlström | Flickr

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