Processed meats – such as bacon, sausages and ham – do cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Its report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%. Meanwhile, it said red meats were “probably carcinogenic” but there was limited evidence.

The WHO did stress that meat also had health benefits. Cancer Research UK said this was a reason to cut down rather than give up red and processed meats. And added that an occasional bacon sandwich would do little harm.

What is processed meat?

Processed meat has been modified to either extend its shelf life or change the taste and the main methods are smoking, curing, or adding salt or preservatives.

Simply putting beef through a mincer does not mean the resulting mince is “processed” unless it is modified further.

Processed meat includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and ham as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.

It is the chemicals involved in the processing which could be increasing the risk of cancer. High temperature cooking, such as on a barbeque, can also create carcinogenic chemicals.

In the UK, around six out of every 100 people get bowel cancer (colorectal cancer) at some point in their lives.

If they were all had an extra 50g of bacon a day for the rest of their lives then the risk would increase by 18% to around seven in 100 people getting bowel cancer.

“So that’s one extra case of bowel cancer in all those 100 life time bacon-eaters,” argued Sir David Spiegel professor from the University of Cambridge.

How bad?

The WHO has come to the conclusion on the advice of its International Agency for Research on Cancer.

It has now placed processed meat in the same category as plutonium, but also alcohol as they definitely do cause cancer.

However, this does not mean they are equally dangerous.

A bacon sandwich is not as bad as smoking.

“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,” Dr Kurt Straif from the WHO said.

Estimates suggest 34,000 deaths from cancer every year could be down to diets high in processed meat. That is in contrast to one million deaths from cancer caused by smoking and 600,000 attributed to alcohol each year.

Red meat does have nutritional value too and is a major source of iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

The WHO said its findings were important for helping countries give balanced dietary advice.

Little harm

Prof. Tim Key, from the Cancer Research UK and the University of Oxford, said:

– “This decision doesn’t mean you need to stop eating any red and processed meat, but if you eat lots of it you may want to think about cutting down.”

“Eating a bacon bap every once in a while isn’t going to do much harm – having a healthy diet is all about moderation.”

Dr Teresa Norat, one of the advisors to the WHO report and from Imperial College London, said there were many factors causing bowel cancer.

“People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fibre, from fruit and vegetables and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol and be physically active.”

The industry body the Meat Advisory Panel said “avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer” and said the focus should be alcohol, smoking and bodyweight.

1. Add True or False, quoting the relevant information from the text to justify your answer. (2 points)

a) Red meat is said not only to cause cancer but also other health problems.

b) Drinking alcohol is as deadly dangerous as it is red meat

2. Answer the following questions according to the information given in the text. Use your own words. (2

a) How is red meat comsumpotion considered as dangerous as smoking or

b) All in all, what’s WHO advice towards processed meat?

3. Find words or phrases in the text which mean the same as the following.

(1 point) a) hurt

b) smoked and dried hard to chew.

c) a dangerous chance

d) bread roll or bun

4. Complete the following sentences. The meaning should be the same as that of the first sentence. (2 points)

a) Body weight is considered dangerous, as well as eating processed meat.

b) The habit of eating processed meat is so dangerous you can develop bowel cancer. It

c) “People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat”. Dr. Teresa Norat said.

Dr Teresa Norat said that the consumption …

d) Although the WHO had already warned about it, the problem lives on.

Despite (…)

5. Write a composition with the following title (80-120 words): (3 points)

Eating habits and health



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