WHO clarifies processed meats message

Following confusion, WHO confirms it is not telling people to stop eating processed meats



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2 November 2015

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Following widespread news coverage which appeared to leave many ‘without a rashers’ on what level of processed meats was actually safe to consume, The World Health Organisation (WHO) said its message on the cancer risk posed by processed meats had been “misinterpreted” and confirmed that it is not asking people to stop eating processed meat.

Last week, the organisation reported that eating more than 50g of processed meat a day – such as sausages, bacon, salami, cured ham and hot dogs – can increase the risk of bowel cancer by 18%.

The WHO published a report which put processed meats in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco, asbestos, arsenic and alcohol.

Red meat such as beef, lamb and pork, were also named as a “probable carcinogenic” with their consumption linked to a higher risk of prostate and pancreatic cancer.

However The Irish Times reports that Gregory Härtl, a spokesman for WHO, clarified: “We’re not saying stop eating processed meats altogether. Do not cut out meats completely as it has nutrients.”

However he added that the key was not “to do anything to excess. Research indicates reducing your consumption of processed meats can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer”.

Härtl added it was a “shortcoming” of its classification system that tobacco, processed meats and arsenic were in the same group.

“We do not want to compare tobacco and meat because we know that no level of tobacco is safe,” he said.

Menu recommendations

Meanwhile Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of Human Health and Nutrition in Safefood, said in the Irish Independent: “Two sausages and two rashers would provide 110 grams of processed meat so once a week is certainly enough.

“And I would suggest maybe one piece of each processed meat plus a grilled tomato or an egg or mushrooms with a slice of brown toast for a hearty once-a-week brunch,” she added.

Other suggestions put forward by nutritionists following the WHO report, include that people should opt for lean steaks or trim off the fat and mix up their daily dinner menus by eating fish and chicken.



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