Bacon, other non-kosher meats cause cancer, World Health Organization says

Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — Eating bacon, sausage and other processed meats can cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

On Monday, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer put the red meats, which are forbidden to eat under kosher dietary laws, in the same category as tobacco, asbestos and other cancer-causing agents.

A group of 22 scientists found that 50 grams of processed meat per day, or less than two slices of bacon, increases the chance of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. The experts published their findings in an article in the medical journal The Lancet.

The IARC’s placement of red meats in its group 2A list along with tobacco does not mean that eating processed meats is as dangerous as smoking, as the organization does not compare the specific cancer risks of agents in the same group. Red meat and tobacco are in the same category because they both present “sufficient evidence” of cancer links.

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“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Dr. Kurt Straif of the IARC said in a statement.

The North American Meat Institute countered in a statement that the IARC findings defy “common sense and dozens of studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer.”

“Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health,” the institute’s president, Barry Carpenter, said in the statement.

The IARC report points out that red meat also has some health benefits, such as “high-biological value proteins and important micronutrients such as B vitamins, iron and zinc.”

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