Bacon and sausage sales are bearing the brunt of the World Health Organization report linking processed meat to cancer, as shown by recent figures.

In the United Kingdom, supermarkets saw a £3 million (over $4 million) decrease in the sales of these processed meat products over the last two weeks.

Based on data from IRI Retail Advantage, pre-packed bacon sales plummeted 17 percent in the week following the report from WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which linked processed meats like bacon, sausage, ham, and hot dogs to colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

The sharp decline continued the next week, marking a 16.5 percent fall in sales. Pre-packed sausage sales, on the other hand, dipped 15.6 percent in the last week of October, as well as 13.9 percent the following week.

IRI stated that “due to the scare,” about £3 million (over $4 million)  or an incremental drop in sales of 10 percent occurred.

A UK-based grocery sales magazine said sausage manufacturers were furious about the scare ensuing from the WHO report, citing that the very classifications of the WHO exclude fresh British sausages from the processed meats category.

It added, however, that not all sausage producers are suffering – sausage maker Heck, for instance, is claimed to have experienced its “biggest week ever” after the report came out.

Some United States companies braced themselves for the worst when the WHO report was released, but some saw the opposite results.

“Considering we ship out about 30,000 pounds of food a day, we braced ourselves… for an onslaught of calls from customers with questions and concerns. We received zero,” recounted Shane Allen, spokesperson for a national weight loss and healthy food delivery company situated near Dallas.

The company has a meat-laden menu that offers bacon, sausages, and burger patties, to name a few.

According to Allen, no customer they spoke to within a 48-hour period in the wake of the report had “batted an eye at the WHO’s ridiculous announcement,” and that sales had remained stable.

Some reports said the meat industry “saw it coming” – that the WHO will give processed meats a Category One rating or will be in the same classification as cigarette smoking. The industry had put up websites as well as prepared counter claims and studies, according to the reports.

“These are studies that draw correlation, not causation. So these are studies that cannot be used to determine cause and effect,” said Shalene McNeill, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Human Nutrition Research director.

The WHO report – which bundles processed meat with other Group One items cigarettes, tobacco chewing, arsenic, and formaldehyde – was published Oct. 26 in full in the journal The Lancet.

Photo: Jan Fidler | Flickr

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