WHO softens stance on processed meats

After receiving numerous queries from people about its stance on processed meats, the World Health Organization has clarified that its review does not explicitly state not to eat processed meats.

Earlier this week, the WHO issued an advisory that processed meats such as bacon could lead to cancer, causing outrage and concern from the public at large.

On Thursday, the organization revised its statement to simply say that reducing the consumption of these foods can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

The full WHO statement is below:

WHO has received a number of queries, expressions of concern and requests for clarification following the publication of a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) relating to processed meat and colorectal cancer.

IARC was established 50 years ago through a resolution of the World Health Assembly as a functionally independent cancer agency under the auspices of WHO. Its programme of work is approved and financed by its participating states.

IARC’s review confirms the recommendation in WHO’s 2002 “Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases report, which advised people to moderate consumption of preserved meat to reduce the risk of cancer. The latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats but indicates that reducing consumption of these products can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

WHO has a standing group of experts who regularly evaluate the links between diet and disease. Early next year they will meet to begin looking at the public health implications of the latest science and the place of processed meat and red meat within the context of an overall healthy diet.

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