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Cancer charity warning on processed red meats

World health experts have warned of the the link between processed red meats, such as bacon and sausages, and increased risk of developing bowel cancer
SeanĂ­n Graham

AN Irish cancer charity has urged consumers to avoid processed red meat such as bacon and sausages - after a major study discovered a link with cancer.

Experts from the World Health Organisation say a daily 50-gram intake of processed meat - less than two slices of bacon - increases the risk of bowel cancer by almost a fifth.

It is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer.

Processed meat refers to products that have been changed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve their shelf-life.

Following the publication of the findings, the Irish Cancer Society said it "recommends avoiding processed meats and reducing the consumption of cooked red meat to 500 grams per week".

"As part of a balanced diet the Irish Cancer Society advocates eating more fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses, cutting down on foods high in calories, fat and sugar, reducing alcohol consumption, and cutting down on salt," it added.

The Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum - set up to promote the pig meat supply chain in Northern Ireland - rejected the report, insisting that red and processed meat play "an important role in a balanced diet, providing protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins."

"The government looked at the same evidence in 2010 and recommended people eat no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day, and that's exactly what the vast majority of us are eating," a spokeswoman said.

"The findings suggest that eating 50g of processed meat brings a small increase in risk. However average consumption in the UK is just 17g per day. People would need to eat three times their current levels to increase their risk.

"There's no evidence that removing meat from your diet protects against cancer."

The WHO report's classification given to processed meat - "carcinogenic to humans" - is the highest of five possible rankings, shared with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes.

But despite the dire warnings, one of Belfast’s most popular 'greasy spoon' cafés was as busy as ever.

The Big Breakfast on Donegall Street served up its usual number of large fries and 'filled sodas' of sausage, bacon and eggs to patrons - including workmen and pensioners.

As he tucked into an extra large fry, owner Mickey Moore told The Irish News he had no concerns about the report’s findings impacting on their profits.

"A report like this came out a few years ago and none of the customers paid any attention to it. I think it will be a seven-day wonder. I eat a fry every other day and it certainly won't be putting me off."

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