I don’t have to tell you that smoking is bad; so I won’t. That issue has been thoroughly ingrained into the minds of everyone still living on the sunny-side of a rock.

Today, the WHO (World Health Organization) made the announcement that processed meats such as bacon, ham, and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major (you read that right) cause of cancer. This effectively means that your favourite breakfast side-dish (on average) fits in the same category as not only tobacco, but alcohol, asbestos, and arsenic; effectively known as Group 1 Carcinogens. Group 1 Carcinogens are qualified because a causal link between their use/consumption and cancer has been established; in this particular case, a causal link between processed meats and bowel cancer. Causual links are incredibly hard to find without careful experimentation, so the impact of this news is truly noteworthy. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer managed to quantify that each 50g portion of processed meat consumed daily increased a person’s risk of cancer by 18%.

Now this has to be read carefully. The research includes processed meat as a Group 1 Carcinogen which means that a causal link between cancer and processed meat consumption has been discovered. This does not mean that a ham sandwich is comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes or running around in an attic full of asbestos or having a glass of shiraz for dinner….I mean with dinner.

Red Meat finds itself in Group 2A which is “probably carcinogenic to humans” and has been linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer. Bear in mind that if you drink alcohol regularly, you’re actually “safer” eating read meat than enjoying your pint of beer. It’s important when looking at studies such as this that MANY things contribute in small quantities to a relative increased or decreased risk of specific diseases. Just hopping in your car to drive to work in the morning is more harmful to your health than the peameal bacon you had for your once-per-week Sunday breakfast.

So guess who is unhappy about this news? I mean besides everyone who likes bacon? The meat industry! Almost immediately, the voices from within the bowels of the meat industry began to state their opposition to the findings. The Meat Advisory Panel deflected the results back to alcohol, obesity and cigarettes. But what else would you expect an “advisory board” for meat to do? The wheat and dairy board would do the same if this news-grenade was tossed at them too. One has to wonder what the purpose of a completely biased “advisory council” is for if not for political mongering.

If you and I are being honest with ourselves; this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Sure, the advent of the crazy paleo-diet might have given bacon a green-light for a few months, but deep down; the advice to cut back on processed and fatty meats has been a constant drum-beat for over a decade. That’s not to say that meat doesn’t have its advantages and benefits; but rather you should really consider cutting down on it and try some vegetables instead. You know it and I know it; so quit kidding yourself. I’ll see you in the produce aisle.