Are you obsessed with bacon? Does the thought of it immediately bring a smile to your face? Does the smell of bacon mean that you immediately have to eat some? Is the new bacon-scented candle being marketed by the world’s most popular candle manufacturer sitting on top of your holiday gift list? If you are among the millions of people worldwide who are enthralled with bacon, the news you’ve seen all over the internet this week is not welcome in your world. Bacon causes cancer.
Pigging out will kill you, the World Health Organization said Monday — warning that bacon, sausage and other processed meats are now in the same category of cancer risk as smoking cigarettes and inhaling asbestos.
Hot dogs, ham, corned beef and almost every other salted, cured or smoked delicacy have been officially classified as “carcinogenic to humans” — and red meat as “probably carcinogenic” — based on a study by 22 scientists from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.
Experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” said Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Program. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”
The experts scoured through more than 800 studies from several continents and found that red meat and processed meat — containing nitrites or other chemicals to help preserve it — can ultimately cause multiple forms of cancer, including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, the WHO reported.
Their findings ultimately showed a 17 percent increased risk of cancer from eating 3.5 ounces per day of red meat and an 18 percent increase per 1.7 ounces per day of processed meat.
The report didn’t sit well with Big Apple bacon-lovers.
“I would die if I couldn’t eat bacon, it’s so delicious!” said Chris Chriswell, owner of Swine, a restaurant in Greenwich Village that has become a proverbial hog heaven among meat-crazed New Yorkers.
“We’re going to continue serving bacon,” he said, adding that one of their crowd favorites is a brunch dish called the Flying Pig, which comes with a flight of four different types of bacon, including lamb, jowl, applewood and maple-glazed smoked.
“Every few years the consensus seems to shift,” Chriswell explained. “If anything causes cancer, it’s up to people to listen to what science says and decide on their own. We aren’t going to force anybody to eat bacon.”
Swine exec chef Oriana Rivadeneira blasted the report as hogwash.
“I’ve never heard of someone dying because of bacon,” she quipped. “Everything always causes cancer all the time. My family are the biggest pork and meat eaters and my grandmother passed away at 101 years old. She lived for so long and she was the biggest pork eater.”
Jason Woolfolk, a general manager at Pork Slope, a roadhouse-inspired barbecue joint in Brooklyn, doesn’t think the WHO report will hurt business.
“We are definitely not going to stop serving bacon anytime soon,” he said. “This place is built for people’s cheat day. No one is going stop eating it, that’s for sure.”
Marc Perez, a butcher at Casablanca Meat Market in East Harlem who is also the son of longtime owner, Louis Perez, doesn’t think the WHO report will hurt business.
“Bacon is like gospel to people these days,” he said. “The average New Yorker who is the same person who goes out at night and has a few drinks, enjoy themselves, and then has to do a few extra miles on the treadmill, so I don’t think it will have an effect.”
FoodFacts.com can hear the hearts of bacon lovers breaking all over the world. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint – the processed meat/cancer discussion seems to go back and forth over time. During one decade, bacon causes cancer; during another, it doesn’t. Sadly for bacon lovers, this happens to be a negative decade for their fondest food obsession. Whether or not it makes sense from a health perspective, we’re fairly confident that the world is not about to see any major negative impact on bacon consumption from this important news.