And at number 1, the most read scientific story on FoodNavigator for this year was the news that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had added processed meat to a list of cancer causing agents. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of WHO, evaluated the evidence for cancer risk from the consumption of red meat and processed meat – finding that the consumption of red meat is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ while processed meats were found to be ‘carcinogenic to humans.’
“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 Programme. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”
The report, which appeared in the Lancet Oncology, placed processed meats in Group 1 of its list of carcinogens that definitely do cause cancer – alongside substances including cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos, plutonium and arsenic.The Group 1 classification, however, was not an indication of how much cancer each substance caused – just that it did cause cancer – and therefore did not mean eating processed meats like sausages carried the same cancer risk as smoking.