This week the World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled bacon, salami and sausages as “Group 1” carcinogens, in the same category as cigarettes and asbestos. The WHO’s new labels appears to cast hamburgers as even more dangerous than was previously thought.
Despite the scary looking chart below the impact on hog futures has been quite muted. The WHO announcement could only have been responsible for that very last leg down, on the far right hand side of the chart, and this only brings hog future prices back to February 2015 levels.
As the Economist say in their latest edition this reaction is probably correct.
However there is no reason to panic. The concern over bacon, steak and cancer is not new. In 2007, for example, the World Cancer Research Fund published a tome on the sources of risk for cancer—the group advised eating no more than 300g of red meat each week and avoiding processed meats, such as bacon and ham. The WHO’s 22 experts did not produce fresh data. They simply reviewed existing research. Their most notable contribution is to conclude that there is “sufficient evidence” that “eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer”. That does not equate bacon with cigarettes. Processed meats are responsible for 34,000 cancer deaths each year, according to the most recent estimates. Smoking accounts for 1m; air pollution 200,000.