back to article Bacon can kill: Official

As predicted last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans". The decision is based on the findings of 22 experts from 10 countries working with WHO's cancer tentacle the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Having reviewed the "accumulated scientific …

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Re: @Zog: {Sigh}

Btw rivers and canals are much nicer to cycle along than roads, especially in London.

If a little damper, and more effort due to the drag of the water...

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@Alister: Re: @Zog: {Sigh}

Alister,

AHA! that is why it took so f'ing long...

Cheers,

jay

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Childcatcher

Re: {Sigh}

Zog, I am a bit torn on your post. Thanks for the link to Ben Goldacre's site. It is definitely worth a visit. The points you allude concerning issues with a blanket announcement concerning processed meats are well taken, too, but you seem to have missed the point on smoking studies and have fallen for the tobacco company line concerning cause.

The reason it is so difficult to assign causality to smoking's relationship with cancer in humans is because it is typically unethical to set up blind studies concerning smoking using human subjects. So tobacco producers continued to push back every time a new study was done ("It's just a correlation. It was an animal study and doesn't properly relate to humans. and so on...) while simultaneously suppressing any evidence that may have impacted their bottom line - the opposite of ethical. I remember from stats class in college that the only way to prove cause and effect through correlational data is to also demonstrate that there was no other possible cause for the outcome and that this is almost impossible to do using observational data. Perhaps a better way of putting it is that smoking has not been proven to cause lung cancer in humans though there is very good reason to believe that it does rather than simply stating that it does not cause it. I have often pondered what the world would be like if tobacco companies had to prove that tobacco use does not cause cancer.

But you may puff away until you are ninety and die of something else, cancer free.

So essentially you are saying that just because something doesn't kill you outright and something else might get you first, there is no causality? I apologize if I am putting words in your mouth, but the analogy that comes to mind is that of playing slots in a casino: the only way to not lose everything is to cash out early or simply not play.

As an aside, I realized the eventual source of my demise would come in the form of smoked foods when I heard they were found to have a link to cancer.

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Re: {Sigh}

"Perhaps a better way of putting it is that smoking has not been proven to cause lung cancer in humans"

Theres plenty of evidence that smoking causes cancer in human cell cultures

One of my former employers makes a range of nitrosonicotines which are used as standards in the testing of carcinogenicity of tobacco and tobacco replacements. Several of the larger tobacco companies purchased them, just so they could test exactly how carcinogenic tobacco actually was compared to a known reference, and whether synthetic tobaccos were an improvement or not.

Tobacco carcinogenicity is known and recognised: if it wasn't, then the companies would not need those chemicals

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So what they've actually done in the minds of everybody who reads this is downgrade the danger of cigarettes ( read: cigarettes are as dangerous as bacon ).

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@dotw

Dotw,

err no, perhaps some of them may actually do some thinking before opening up another pack or having fried breakfasts X times a week?

Also how specifically is a carton of cigarettes as dangerous as a vac-packed chunk of bacon? I suppose the cigaratte carton does have MUCH sharper corners..

Cheers,

jay

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Joke

Well it's official: eating bacon is as cool as smoking. Mind you I should be careful since I knock back 40 rashers a day....

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Sausages

For some reason they keep saying sausages in their message yet most British sausages don't actually meet their criteria for "processed meat". The fact that they are also suggesting things on a list containing plutonium are OK to consume "occasionally" kind of leaves me ignoring all of their jibber jabber. Perhaps we need more than 2 threat levels chaps? Deadly and safe seem to be confusing the issue, maybe we need at least Deadly, not good for you, safe? Although the same common sense which led me to suggest these three categories can be easily used to identify objects to place in each. Bombs - deadly. Bacon, not good for you but won't actually kill you. Breathing, really rather safe. Simples.

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Headmaster

Re: Sausages

They do have more than two threat levels, five in fact, though outwith Group 1 they all sound a bit vague.

◾Group 1- carcinogenic to humans

◾Group 2A - probably carcinogenic to humans

◾Group 2B - possibly carcinogenic to humans

◾Group 3- not classifiable

◾Group 4- probably not carcinogenic

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Re: Sausages

To be pedantic, that is really only three levels: 1, 2 & 4

"Group 3" appears to be the equivalent of "Don't know"

2A and 2B are sub-groups of the same level, again basically "Don't know, but some evidence of risk".

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@Zog.

Agreed about the recommendation. Bad Science is a great read. A correlation statistic is not the same as a casual factor.

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Re: @Zog.

By your reasoning, nothing could ever be shown to cause anything, just varying levels of correlation.So, being run over by a car correlates strongly with death, but clearly very "bad science" to say that being run over by a car causes death.

<rolls eyes/>

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@IvoryFoundations Re: @Zog.

IF,

The reference is to a book, [clue] "Bad Science"

Being 'run over' by a car is indeed shitingly bad luck, but hey, SHIT HAPPENS...

I would a be f'ing smidgeon grumpy were i 'stationary' (as opposed to a piece of paper) when the bustard drove over me....

/squiffy

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Why single out bacon?

Bacon isn't actually a 'processed' meat is it? Most of the time the stuff we get here in the UK tends to be straight slices of swine flesh. And how, pray, do they know that it is processed meat, as opposed to any other type of meat/fish/vegetable that increases the chance of colorectal cancers?

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Re: Why single out bacon?

Curing is a type of processing. Bacon is cured in salt (brine or dry salt). It may also be smoked beyond that. That's why it is salty, and oh so delicious.

Let's also not confuse American bacon (streaky, from belly) with European/British Back Bacon (pork loin).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why single out bacon?

"Bacon is cured in salt (brine or dry salt)"

Some years ago I was on a course for familiarisation with Japan and Japanese culture for a large pharmaceutical company, during which they mentioned Japan has a higher than usual incidence of bowel and stomach cancer.

When I queried why this was the instructor said it was thought this was due to the amount of salt in traditional Japanese diets, a quick Google reveals there does seem to be a link between high salt intake and these types of cancer:

http://www.nature.com/bjc/press_releases/p_r_jan04_6601511.html

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Re: Why single out bacon?

Also we shouldn't forget that a certain religion is dead agin it.

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Re: Why single out bacon?

Also important not to confuse common American pork with meat. There are more chemicals and other nasties forced into American pigs than are even remotely sane. This youtube video shows are pretty sane report on it (there are a lot of nutjobs associated with the reporting of factory pig farming).

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Re: Why single out bacon?

> a quick Google reveals there does seem to be a link between high salt intake and these types of cancer:

Great, can we have salt added to the list of known carcinogens too then.

Then can we see how long people live when they decide to avoid it.

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Re: Why single out bacon?

"Great, can we have salt added to the list of known carcinogens too then."

We're talking about high salt content every day, and from looking at what the IARC has labelled a risk salt is probably already is on their list :

"but don’t breathe air (Class I carcinogen), sit near a sun-filled window (Class I), apply aloe vera (Class 2B) if you get a sunburn, drink wine or coffee (Class I and Class 2B), or eat grilled food (Class 2A). And if you are a hairdresser or do shiftwork (both Class 2A), you should seek a new career."

Wasn't saying don't eat any salt just that eating a lot of it seems linked to bowel and stomach cancers for the reasons given in the link.

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Re: Why single out bacon?

"A" certain religion? I can think of two of them, actually... does that hamper your bigotry?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why single out bacon?

No, it doesn't, but only one of them kills you for disagreeing with them.

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gv

Re: Why single out bacon?

Yes, those Jains are always causing trouble.

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Re: Why single out bacon?

Religiously speaking... two. But is the one that has a armed military that will kill non-believers (if you eat pork, you're a non-believer). The other won't. So I agree with Ivan: one that's dead set against it.

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Call me Mr Thickie but....

I'm now confused as to what exactly "processed" meat means. My impression of bacon is that it's cut directly from the animal. What else happens to it? Do I even want to know? And will I stop eating it if I do?

Answer to the last one is going to be no of course.

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Re: Call me Mr Thickie but....

Bacon is 'cured'. This is what makes it different from, say, thinly sliced pork belly slices.

There are several different ways of curing, including packing with salt, soaking in brine and smoking.

Originally, the idea was to preserve the meat so that it could be stored and eaten later. More recently, the food industry chemically treats pork in a way that doesn't actually preserve the meat (proper bacon should last for months without refrigeration), but makes it taste a little like traditional bacon.

It is quite possible that the modern way of making bacon counts as 'processing'. Whether the traditional methods count as well is something I would like to know.

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Re: Call me Mr Thickie but....

I agree Mr Thickie, I think we need to understand exactly what "processed meat" means. If bacon wasn't processed, it'd just be pork but 99% everything I buy from a supermarket has been processed in some manner simply by packaging it. So do we need another traffic light code system on the packaging? Green (low processed food) to red (highly processed cancer causing food!)

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According to that I should have exploded years ago.

And with processed meats; isn't it as least as likely to be the crap that they process it with rather than the meat itself?

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Life is fatal

As Dr Gabrielle Walker told us last night on BBC 4's "Every Breath We Take: Understanding Our Atmosphere", the oxygen we need to live is inexorably destroying our bodies at the same time.

I suspect the WHO is just being a gravy train in this instance (carcinogenic gravy of course; I'm sure all food is carcinogenic if you try hard enough).

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Angel

Re: Life is fatal

Absolutely. Oxygen is a poisonous gas. If the anaerobic organisms had predominated early on we might have been their near immortal descendants.

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@Whiskers -- Re: Life is fatal

I suspect the WHO is just being a gravy train in this instance (carcinogenic gravy of course; I'm sure all food is carcinogenic if you try hard enough).

This is the "problem"... Who paid for the studies? Who benefits from the studies? Is it some profit motive or some hidden agenda?

There's a lot of studies being carried out and reported on. The problem is following the money and finding out the "why are they being conducted". I suspect that this is a hidden agenda series of studies and not profit based.

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So a small increase in risk of arse cancer if you eat processed meats often...

And a list of dangerous items that has all been grouped into a mere two categories... yeah, good idea. All this does is make the list look stupid. Plutonium, Bacon. Yeah, very similar.

As with all these things, moderation is the key. Don't ban yourself (the regret when it's a false alarm may overwhelm, especially with bacon), but don't overdo it (just in case).

And what's this thing about sausages? British sausages are raw meat and some herbs - where's the processing there?

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One can find the same type of sausages in the States. Maybe not always at the big box supermarket but at the local butcher's shop. Yes, they're still around. Five minutes with a phone book or search engine of choice will locate them quickly.

There is a big difference in taste and texture between the Jimmy Dean stuff and sausages from the butcher.

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Anonymous Coward

DHMO and Plutonium

Both DHMO (Dihydrogen monoxide) and Plutonium are fatal if inhaled!

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Anonymous Coward

Pish and tosh

Having reviewed the "accumulated scientific literature"...

In other words, they've done a review of a review, thrown in a few assumptions and come up with the conclusion they were looking for all along.

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Re: Pish and tosh

+1 for use of the word Pish.

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US anything Meat I agree

given the amount of drugs etc their livestock is given as a matter of course. Then their sausages (closer to Wurst) than our types are naturally heavily processed.

But frankly what food in the USA isn't heavily processed???? Just try to eat that rubber they call cheese...

I get my Bacon from an organic farm. No chemicals just natural salt curing.

Sausages are from my local butcher. No rusk or crap added. Nothing but minced meat and herbs (and the occassional dash of Marmite). If minced meat counts as being processed then..the world will truly end this Saturday (after the Rugby though).

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Re: US anything Meat I agree

"No chemicals just natural salt curing."

Chemicals, then?

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Re: US anything Meat I agree

Chemicals, then?

Yup - generally speaking everything is a chemical. It does depends on your definition of "thing" though. The distinction between "natural" and "non-natural" is astonishingly vague. Table salt: dug out of ground = "man made and nasty", extracted from the sea "natural and nice" all the while being the same chemical. Yes, there are different trace elements and mined salt has more trace elements removed and often non-clumping additives added (which are generally better for you than the salt itself) but that's it.

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Re: US anything Meat I agree

> Just try to eat that rubber they call cheese...

Rubber? I wish US cheese was that good. Actual fact: when a kid, me and friends would eat small amounts from our glorious collection of erasers. Each tasted different, some slightly nutty. Any and all of them better than US cheese.

I am sure good cheese exists in the US, but the "American cheese" (that bright yellow goo) is a crime against humanity.

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"American cheese" (that bright yellow goo)

Sounds suspiciously like Cheese: possessed as used to featured in British Army ratpacks.

If you were lucky you got one marked Cheese removed.

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Re: US anything Meat I agree

Ah, you mean our lovely "pasteurized process american cheese food product," (really!), sold pre-sliced and individually wrapped for our kids to gnaw on while the grownups eat the real thing. Yeah, it's pretty awful.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: US anything Meat I agree @SteveDavies not on your life....

Really, is EVERYONE in the UK as ignorant, patronizing, parochial and uninformed about Americans as you are?

You haven't even a clue what people eat here in the USA OTHER than "It's not proper English food, yada, yada, whine, complain. Really, since when did England ever produce any 5 star food? It's (stereotypically) bland, fatty, starchy, overcooked and rank. And you eat offal, regularly. That's supposed to make me think you know what good food tastes like? NOT!

Do you think we haven't got the latest "free range" this and that and "organic" cheese posthumously fermented in the wrinkly vagina's of ex nun's? That's appropriately describes what I think of certain soft cheeses like Camembert and Limburger.

I obviously exaggerate but we have all the trendy and organic foods here too, you just have look beyond Krogers for them. But then you didn't look beyond your stereotypes of Americans, did you?

It's like you people can't stop going on and on about something that is so simple to do. You may even be surprised that we knew how to do it without your assistance and have been doing so for hundreds of years.

The vast majority of us gave up on Velveeta, long before grade school. Just because some chain restaurants haven't is not our fault. You still buy their crap and eat it.

Some of us even had great cheeses to begin with. I'll wager Vermont, New York and Wisconsin already produce any dairy based comestible better than that produced in Blighty. Some local hams are being produced that rival those in Spain. And there are a quite a few wines from New York State that put your rotgut to shame. Locally grown beef (raised without antibiotics) is on a par with Wagyu and no where near as expensive.

And in the end, it's a damn good thing that you aren't getting any of them; so there's more left for me.

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Re: US anything Meat I agree @SteveDavies not on your life....

"Really, is EVERYONE in the UK as ignorant, patronizing, parochial and uninformed about Americans as you are?"

Dunno, I don't live there any more, but I can relate to it. My sadly deceased best friend was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Louisiana where following graduation he fled the draft by coming to live in Tasmania. In the late 1980s he went on a visit to the USA where his family inflicted what appears to be a typical American diet on him. "Instant" mashed potatoes, "instant" dehydrated peas etc...

When he returned and I asked how the trip had gone, he replied that all he could think of was coming to my place to eat. Chicken for dinner meant a trip to the hen-house, vegetables came straight from the garden. Even the wine was made on the farm.

I agree with you about locally grown beef though. I agist the neighbour's cattle in return for a freezer full of beef each year and it's wagyu x Murray grey. I also purchase a quarter of Hereford grown out for a year longer than commercial growers once a year. It's even tastier than wagyu and definitely cheaper than meat from butcher or supermarket. Home-made bacon definitely is an entirely different substance to what the supermarkets sell.

Frankly I will stick with eating gourmet fare every day and the ROTW can subsist on food-like substances as much as it wants. I'm not going to eat any.

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Re: US anything Meat I agree @SteveDavies not on your life....

Chicken for dinner meant a trip to the hen-house, vegetables came straight from the garden. Even the wine was made on the farm.

Count yourself fortunate! Most people in the world can't do that, as they live in urban areas, Americans included. I'm sure there are also many that *could* do that but are too lazy to do so and just buy all their food. (But instant potatoes, really??)

I consider myself fortunate as well, having a small property in southwest Washington state where we can have a large vegetable garden and free range chickens. It's large enough that we could also possibly raise one cow at a time, or grow enough grapes for wine, or something else. Just moved there and we haven't decided yet what to do with the rest of the small bit of land.

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Re: US anything Meat I agree

Table salt: dug out of ground = "man made and nasty"

Except when it's funky pink colour, in which case you call it 'Himalayan' and it is even more natural than sea salt and so doubleplus good for the health that it costs twice as much

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Re: US anything Meat I agree @SteveDavies not on your life....

@AC - Having been visiting over to that side of the pond, I can confirm that you are completely right*. US and Canada are huge countries that are also extremely fertile and abundant, and although dominated by large and 'nasty' agribusiness, there are still many small farmers and it's easy to find fresh healthy food *IF* you can be bothered to look.

I would say that a majority or a large minority of Americans are unhealthy eaters, don't exercise, are very overweight etc etc, but to characterise all of 300 million people like that is plain lazy.

* Except for this: "Some local hams are being produced that rival those in Spain.". That, I simply do not believe.

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Headmaster

My doctor told me...

... not to worry too much about what I eat, as worrying could give me ulcers.

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Re: My doctor told me...

Ulcers are caused by bacteria (not stress) and cured by anti biotics.

American meat is similarly treated with stress during factory farming, given anti biotics ad standard, and cured with salt and a chemical cocktail of toxic crap.

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