Add processed meat to the list of things that will cause cancer, the World Health Organization announced on Oct. 26.
The report was drafted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which reviewed decades of research on the links between red meat, processed meats and cancer. The findings led the WHO to classify processed meat as carcinogenic to humans and classify unprocessed red meat as probably carcinogenic. By classifying processed meat as carcinogenic to humans it puts it in the same category as smoking tobacco and asbestos, although not equally dangerous.
According to the Washington Post, "the panel cited studies suggesting that eating an additional 100 grams of red meat per day raises the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 percent; eating an extra 50 grams of processed meat daily raises the risk 18 percent." The report did stress, however, that meat had benefits and still has nutritional value.
This is the first time a major organization has gone as far as to say red meat causes cancer. The report is expected to meet strict criticism in places like the United States, where beef is a $95 billion industry.
"We simply don’t think the evidence support any causal link between any red meat and any type of cancer," Shalene McNeill, executive director of human nutrition at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, told the Washington Post.
"People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fibre, from fruit and vegetables and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol and be physically active," Dr. Teresa Norat said to BBC News. Dr. Norat was one of the advisors to the WHO report.
The WHO said its findings were important for helping countries give balanced dietary advice.
Before the WHO report the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a guide published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only offered a tentative warning about processed meats. "Moderate evidence suggests an association between the increased intake of processed meats (e.g., franks, sausage, and bacon) and increased risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease."