The World Health Organization (WHO) is feeling some heat after publishing a report indicating processed meats, such as bacon, should be classified as carcinogens.

Instead of accepting this dread data as “truth”, when asked if they were going to give up meat based on the news, Chicago Tribune readers quickly mocked the scare-mongering.

Furthermore, over 70% of respondents to the Chicago Tribune poll had no plans to cut tasty pork products from their diets.

WHO quickly served up an explanation for the new cancer rating:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has insisted it is not telling people to stop eating bacon and other processed meats after a report claimed they could increase the risk of cancer.

Farmers and the meat industry reacted with outrage when the organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) put ham and sausages in the ominous-sounding “group one” of carcinogens, which includes formaldehyde, gamma radiation and cigarettes.

But the WHO has sought to ease panic by emphasising that the findings only confirmed recommendations made back in 2002, which advised people to moderate their consumption 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,” a spokesperson said, noting that the organisation had received “a number of queries, expressions of concern and requests for clarification”.

Since WHO released this report, vegan activists have been cooking up a scheme to gain even more control over school lunch menus. However, rational scientists have been attempting to extinguish those efforts. National Center for Public Policy’s research risk analysis director Jeff Stier has the following assessment of the real cancer risk of eating 4-6 pieces of bacon daily.

Stier points out that other studies challenge the WHO’s conclusions, but more importantly, even if your chance of getting colorectal cancer did increase by 18 percent your chances of getting in the first place are minimal at best.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were just 42.4 new cases per 100,000 people. “Without this context, it is easy to pay attention to the ’18 percent’ number without understanding context. It’s like saying that living near a NASA facility triples your chances of getting hit by an errant spaceship. It may be true, but it doesn’t mean much,” said Stier.

I often teach risk assessment principles. One of the best lectures on the subject of carcinogens and risk was given by Bruce Ames. During this discussion, he demonstrated that most plants we consume contain pesticides and carcinogens naturally, and that our bodies are designed to quickly remove and replace damaged cells. He also questioned the reliance on rat and mice data for cancer classifications.

It is worth watching if you want a better understanding of real cancer risks.

After this talk you will never look at mushrooms and herbal tea the same way again!

UMass Medical School colorectal surgeon Kamir Alavi, MD explains that there is no direct causal link between processed meat and cancer and that more evidence is needed.


The new cancer classification by the international agency has significant consequences in California. In my state, any product containing a known carcinogen has to be labeled under “Proposition 65” requirements.

California bureaucrats are seriously considering the addition of red meat to the cancer list, and the meat industry is fighting back.

The meat industry, which disputes the findings of the cancer study, says courts have been clear that Proposition 65 conflicts with federal policy on meat labeling at stores.

California officials say it’s not clear how courts would approach warnings on processed meats. Legal precedent cited by the beef industry, including an 2009 state appellate ruling, dealt with fresh meats, not processed products.

Californians are not even allowed to have their breakfast without being regulated.  In fact, Proposition 65 rules are being applied to coffee as well.

Starbucks and other big name coffee chains are being sued in California in a bid to get them to label their coffee products as containing a carcinogen. A non-profit is claiming that because of the levels of acrylamide in these chains’ coffee consumers need to be warned.

The California-based Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) is suing Starbucks and other companies like Dunkin’ Donuts, Seattle’s Best Coffee and Whole Foods Market under California’s proposition 65 rule, which requires warning labels to be placed on products that contain chemicals linked to cancer.

…Stanley Omaye, a professor of nutrition and toxicology at the University of Nevada, US, says the coffee companies have the stronger case. ‘Based on the animal studies, you would have to drink probably over 100 cups of coffee a day in order to get to that dangerous dose, so it is totally absurd,’ he tells Chemistry World.

Starbucks recently won a delay in this ridiculous trial.

Based on these developments, perhaps I can interest the evil Koch brothers in funding my upcoming study that will completely prove taxes cause cancer? It would certainly based on more rational science than is evidenced on rating bacon and coffee as cancer-causing agents.


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