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Dangers of processed meat

April 2017

bacon rashers

Following on from warnings about eating too much red meat, it is worth noting warnings from the respected World Health Organisation that processed meats can also be dangerous.

The evidence for this has come from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer which has warned that processed meat could act as a carcinogen...a food item that can cause cancer.

Processed meat includes a meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or to give it flavour. This can include salting, curing, fermenting, smoking and adding preservatives and covers so many of our favourite foods from bacon and ham to salami, corned beef and sausages.

Research is ongoing but the International Agency for Research has said that 50g of processed meat a day increases the chances of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.

The studies involved twenty two experts from ten different countries who reviewed more than 800 studies, so a lot of research was involved.

There has been a lot of news about the dangers of eating too much red meat, but these results show that processed meat could be more dangerous, possibly due to the chemicals that are used or are formed during the processing. In a loose way it is similar to the warnings of increased risks of cancer from cooking meat at high temperatures such as on a barbecue which can create carcinogenic chemicals.

Cancer Research UK has some excellent information available to explain it all further.

And their chart as follows also gives an indication of the latest thoughts on the dangers of red and processed meats:


But all these august bodies say that you don’t need to give up these foods – after all red meat contains a lot of specific nutrients that are very beneficial. The key is to eat in moderation; two thick rashers of bacon every morning for breakfast could be a problem; the occasional bacon sandwich is absolutely fine.

Again with ham and sausages, the key is just to be aware and careful. Today you can buy local farm fresh ham or handmade sausages that may be filled with hugely health ingredients with no preservatives whatsoever.

But with the evidence of dangers from preserved and also charcoaled red meats gaining strength, it makes sense to take some heed of the warnings and try to ensure you have a well-balanced diet.

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