Last fall you may have heard or read that the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat as a carcinogen.
Processed meat was classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans, the same classification as for tobacco smoking and asbestos exposure. (Note: This is not to say these carcinogens are equally dangerous. The classification describes the strength of the scientific evidence about the cause of cancer, and the studies do not evaluate level of risk.)
Processed meat includes any salted, cured, fermented or smoked meat for the purpose of preservation and/or flavor. These meats often contain pork or beef, but they may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood. Hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, corned beef, beef jerky and canned meat are all examples of processed meat.
It’s interesting how this information, which only confirms earlier studies anyway, was presented in the popular media. For example, one headline read “You Don’t Have To Give Up Bacon, Processed Meat, WHO Stresses.” The reason WHO does not tell us to give up processed meat is because it is not in the business of making dietary recommendations one way or the other. It simply demonstrates the scientific link.
[WHO] is a research organization that evaluates the evidence on the causes of cancer but does not make health recommendations as such. [Study information is], however, often used as a basis for making national and international policies, guidelines and recommendations to minimize cancer risks. Governments may decide to include this new information on the cancer hazards of processed meat in the context of other health risks and benefits in updating dietary recommendations. ~World Health Organization
I remember listening to a morning talk show the day of the news release. The medical correspondent for the show presented the WHO findings, after which the interviewer asked whether this meant people had to give up bacon. No, laughed the correspondent! Limit your servings a few times a week, she said.
What if the interviewer substituted the word “cigarettes” for the word “bacon” in her question? Would the correspondent have said to limit smoking to a few times a week? I suspect not, and I can’t help but think back to those old magazine ads from the 1950’s, with different doctors showing off their preferred cigarette brands. Will we be talking about processed meat differently in 50 years? I don’t know.
Don’t cry! It’s not that bad! All I want you to know is that you can make a yummy sandwich using vegetables!! Silly you.
Here was my lunch yesterday, a tomato hummus sandwich with lettuce (and pea shoots):
I put the pea shoots in there, because I thought they’d look nice for the picture! (That’s how I am!) But it’s just a simple sandwich: hummus, tomato slices, lettuce, whole wheat sourdough bread. It takes just as long as making a “normal” sandwich and probably costs less, because it has no meat or cheese.
Yes, I made my own bread!
Yes, I made my own hummus!
(It’s not easy being me.)
But you don’t have to be me. (Luckily.) Just use whatever bread and whatever hummus. See what you think!