Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Processed Meats Linked to Cancer, WHO Report Says

Food
Processed Meats Linked to Cancer, WHO Report Says

Bad news for bacon lovers. Processed meat, such as sausage, hot dogs, ham and bacon, was officially classified today as "carcinogenic to humans based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer," according to a new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization.

The agency also found that the consumption of red meat, which it defines as "all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat," is "probably carcinogenic to humans" (classified as Group 2A). The finding is based on "limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect." The agency found an association between the consumption of red meat and colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.

The association puts processed meat in the same ranking (Group 1) as 118 other "agents," including alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes, that the IARC deemed as having the potential to cause cancer. There are four other classifications, Group 2A, "probably carcinogenic;" Group 2B, "possibly carcinogenic;" Group 3, "not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity;" and Group 4, "probably not carcinogenic." The IARC has classified 985 agents in total and found only one to be "probably not carcinogenic."

Experts concluded that eating just 50 grams of processed meat a day increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” says Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Program. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

The IARC looked at more than 800 studies in the past 20 years that investigated an association between various cancers with the consumption of red or processed meat. The studies spanned "many countries and populations with diverse diets," according to the IARC.

"These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat,” says Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC. “At the same time, red meat has nutritional value. Therefore, these results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations.”

Unsurprisingly, industry groups have reacted with fury to the findings, CNBC reported. The North American Meat Institute has accused the IARC of “dramatic and alarmist over-reach."

“Red and processed meats are among 940 substances reviewed by IARC found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard,’" Barry Carpenter, North American Meat Institute president, told CNBC. “Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by IARC not to cause cancer.”

Other organizations, such as the World Cancer Research Fund warns that there is "strong evidence that eating a lot of [red and processed meat] increases your risk of bowel cancer." And the National Healthy Society Choices' website says that "evidence shows that there is probably a link between eating red and processed meat and the risk of bowel cancer. People who eat a lot of these meats are at higher risk of bowel cancer than those who eat small amounts."

However, one expert (via The Independent), emeritus fellow at the Institute of Food Research Dr. Ian Johnson, cautions against putting the risk on the same level as that from tobacco smoke:

"Although there is epidemiological evidence for a statistically significant association between processed meat consumption and bowel cancer, it is important to emphasize that the size of the effect is relatively small, and the mechanism is poorly defined.

"It is certainly very inappropriate to suggest that any adverse effect of bacon and sausages on the risk of bowel cancer is comparable to the dangers of tobacco smoke, which is loaded with known chemical carcinogens and increases the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers by around 20-fold."

Friends of the Earth's senior food campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, had this to say:

 "This should be a wake-up call that our diets urgently need to change. Evidence shows that high meat diets not only harm our health, they damage our environment too. Experts have warned that unless we eat less meat globally, we will fail to meet our climate change targets. Polls show that consumers are willing to eat less meat, and now this research should shake the Government into bold action. The government should do more to help people access healthy, sustainable diets, with less and better quality meat."

And David Wallinga, a physician who writes for NRDC, said the finding shows "Americans' love affair with meat" has a "supersized impact on public health." He adds, "It would not be good medicine to wait longer before strongly advising the public to eat less red meat and especially less processed meat."

"Bottom line: Eat less and better meat," says Wallinga. "Better for you, better for the planet."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Cheese Really Is ‘Daily Crack’: New Study Reveals It’s as Addictive as Drugs

Tesla Model S Drivers Set Record-Breaking Cross Country Trip Using Autopilot Almost Entire Time

24 States Sue Obama Over Clean Power Plan

6 Ways Your Home Can Make You Sick

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

By Shelly Miller

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Read More Show Less
California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less
A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Mountain Valley Pipeline proposes to carry natural gas for hundreds of miles over dozens of water sources, through protected areas and crossing the Appalachian Trail. Appalachian Trail Conservancy / YouTube

It's been a bad summer for fracked natural gas pipelines in North Carolina.

Read More Show Less