- According to the World Health Organization, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and other processed meats are cancerous, and red meat probably causes cancer. It's an aggressive stance that could send shockwaves through the meat industry.
- WHO has based its statements on "a 22-member panel of international experts that reviewed decades of research on the link between red meat, processed meats, and cancer. The panel reviewed animal experiments, studies of human diet and health, and cell mechanisms that could lead from red meat to cancer," The Washington Post reported.
- However, the panel's conclusions were not unanimous, so these statements will likely be controversial and fought hard by the $95 billion U.S. beef industry and other meat industry entities. Many have called into question whether these strong conclusions are based on substantiated evidence.
Purporting a causal relationship between processed meats, red meat, and cancer is a fairly serious stance, one that goes well beyond any tentative claims WHO and other groups, such as the American Cancer Association, have made in the past. Even the Dietary Guidelines suggest a possible link between processed meats and an increased risk for cancer, but the organization behind them doesn't go as far as to say processed meats actually cause cancer.
As they have with the GMO debate, it's likely that academics and scientists will play a major role in the debate surrounding red and processed meats going forward. Science from both sides will be key in this controversy.
One study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition called food and cancer-causing research into question by examining academic studies on 50 common cookbook ingredients.
"Of the 50 ingredients considered, 40 had been studied for their impact on cancer. Individually, most of those studies found that consumption of the food was correlated with cancer. When the research on any given ingredient was considered collectively, however, those effects typically shrank or disappeared," The Washington Post reported.