Smother it between carbs and eggs and call it a hangover cure, marinate it and serve with apple mash, hell, cook it on the barrel of your gun like the red-blooded ‘Merican you are—however you enjoy the smoky pork strip, you’re not alone. As the abundance of bacon memes, comedy t-shirts, and, uh, bus tours will attest to, humans really, really like bacon.
But health experts may be about to rain on our greasy parade as news emerges that the World Health Organisation (WHO) could be preparing to announce that the meat causes cancer.
According to a “well-placed source” at The Daily Mail, the WHO will list processed meats including bacon, sausage, and pastrami as “carcinogenic to humans” alongside cancer-causing substances such as arsenic, asbestos, alcohol, and cigarettes. Fresh red meat will also join the “encyclopedia of carcinogens” and ranked as only slightly less dangerous than processed meats, often made by smoking or adding chemicals.
Links between red meat consumption and cancer have been reported by health experts in the past but the expected WHO announcement, which the Mail says is due on Monday and comes after “a meeting of scientists from ten nations,” goes further in stating that processed meat causes cancer.
If the announcement does materialise, it won’t be the first time bacon and its processed companions have come under scrutiny from health researchers. Earlier this year, a study published in health journal Fertility & Sterility found that men who avoided sausage, bacon, and canned meat had a 28 percent higher fertility success rate than those smashing the rashers.
Of course, there’s no official word yet from the WHO and the Mail does have something of a track record when it comes to labelling seemingly innocuous substances as carcinogenic. As The Independent points out, while the UK government website NHS Choices states that “there is probably a link between eating red and processed meat and the risk of bowel cancer,” beef, lamb, and pork “can form part of a healthy diet” and that red meat is “a good source of protein and provides vitamins and minerals, such as iron and zinc.”
The beef sector alone also adds £2.8 billion to the British economy and such a statement from the WHO could prove extremely damaging. Indeed meat industry figures such as Betsy Booren at the North American Meat Institute are already worried about the implications of such an announcement: “If they determine that red and processed meat causes cancer – and I think they will—that moniker will stick … It could take decades and billions of dollars to change that,” Booren said.
Suddenly vegan seaweed bacon doesn’t sound like such a crazy idea, after all.