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Link between processed meat and cancer being taken with a grain of salt

Sausages on display at Gilmour's Meat Shop and Deli. Photo by James Gaughan [1]

Staff at the popular Gilmour’s Meat Shop and Deli in Rossmore say they aren’t worried about a drop in sales of sausages and other meats because of this week’s cancer warning from the World Health Organization. “Everything in moderation,” says manager Jake Broder. Photo by James Gaughan, QNet News

By James Gaughan [2]

BELLEVILLE – On Monday, the World Health Organization [3] announced that processed and red meats can cause cancer.

The WHO says that foods such as bacon, sausage and ham are carcinogenic. It placed them in the same health-risk category as cigarettes.

The organization warns that people who consume 50 grams of processed meats a day – that’s approximately one hot dog – have an 18-per-cent increased risk of getting colorectal cancer at some point in their lives.

But Loyalist College students don’t seem to think the announcement is a big deal, and say they are unlikely to change their eating habits.

As second-year TV New Media student Richie Perry put it: “Anything these days causes cancer.”

Ilias Stanois, a 19-year-old fellow TV New Media student, agreed, saying, “Anything can kill anybody – whether it’s cigarettes or radiation from the sun.”

“I wouldn’t worry or dwell too much about it,” he added.

Stanois said he is concerned about the lack of transparency between food companies and their customers about how their products are made.

“It’s really hard to tell what they put in food nowadays,” he said.

Students may be right in doubting just how deadly the meat they are eating truly is. While the WHO has put processed meats in the same group as cigarettes, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily as dangerous. The Global Burden of Disease Project [4] estimates that 34,000 people die worldwide every year as a result of eating too much processed and red meats. However, that is a fraction of the one million people who die of cancer related to smoking and tobacco use annually.

Hunter Scrimshaw, a butcher at Gilmour’s Meat Shop and Deli [5] in Rossmore, says he thinks the WHO’s announcement has been blown out of proportion.

“It’s all pretty ridiculous,” he said. “It’s not a new thing that red meat can give you a higher chance of colorectal cancer or stomach cancer.”

The manager of Gilmour’s, Jake Broder, agreed. He said he doesn’t foresee the WHO’s report having any impact on business at the deli.

For people who are concerned, the best thing to do is simply not go overboard on just how much red and processed meats they include in their diets, he said.

“Everything in moderation.”

The Canadian Cancer Society [6] says that to reduce the risk of getting cancer from these meats, people should only eat three servings of red meat a week and save processed meats for special occasions such as holiday dinner.

It also recommends having at least one meal a week without any meat.