On Monday, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report classifying processed meats as carcinogenic and red meats as probably carcinogenic. Needless to say, meat lovers did not react positively to this news.
A Reuters article indicated that negative tweets about the report outnumbered positive tweets by a ratio of almost 7 to 1 the day of the report and 6.5 to 1 the following day. The day after the report’s release, the hashtags #FreeBacon, #Bacongeddon and #JeSuisBacon were trending on Twitter. A New York Times article discussed Britons’ response to the report, citing the country’s love for the “full English” meal consisting of bacon, sausage and eggs, with additions including baked beans, black pudding, fried bread, hash browns, and other food items.
A Gizmodo.com article cautioned consumers to not panic while pointing out certain media outlets falsely suggested the report shows processed meat is as carcinogenic as tobacco and asbestos. A Sydney Morning Herald columnist discounted the perspective of meat as a cancer-causer but focused on animal welfare concerns.
A BEEF magazine blog highlighted concerns from scientists about the IARC report. The post quoted nutritional toxicologist James Coughlin, PhD, CFS, as saying “In the case of red and processed meat, the overall scientific evidence simply does not support their conclusion.” The North American Meat Institute declared the IARC report a “dramatic and alarmist overreach.”
Based on the report’s findings, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics released a statement with their recommendations for Americans. The Academy recommended that “consumers in the United States vary their daily protein choices by including lean meats, poultry and fish along with plants sources like beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Consumption of processed meats like ham, bacon and hot dogs, which are often high in saturated fat and sodium, should be limited.”
The World Health Organization received so much backlash over the report that they released a follow-up statement clarifying that “the latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats but indicates that reducing consumption of these products can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.”
The report clearly struck a nerve with consumers, but regardless of the findings, the rule of “all things in moderation” applies. Producing safe, healthy food is of utmost importance to everyone in the food system. Eating in moderation, including all food groups and balancing with the right amount of physical activity all contribute to a healthy food plan.