As someone taking an interest in their food, I was curious about the news coming out of the World Health Organisation this week. The WHO have issued a report reaffirming the link between red meat – in particular, processed meat – and cancer; a report that generated the expected level of hoo-hah (a scientific term) in the newspapers and on the news.
My personal reaction to the headlines about a link between processed meat and cancer was to go out and have a full English breakfast.
Yes, that would be a full English with sausages and bacon. That kind of full English.
I would like to add that this was not a calculated riposte to the news coming out of Lyon. It was all just a badly-timed breakfast. What do you do when you find yourself seeking sustenance in a farm shop cafe at an early hour on a Tuesday morning? It has to be the full English doesn’t it? But it did make me think. When you read that a typical English breakfast is going to be somewhere in the region of 130g of processed meat, and that you should really be looking to cut back to no more than 70g, then it puts some perspective on your pork; a little rationalising of the rashers is required.
As with all of the food-related topics that I have looked at this year, there are no easy answers. Some of the attention-grabbing headlines have not helped to shape the conversations around eating meat in the most helpful way. The NHS remarks, for example, that “headlines such as the Daily Express’, “Processed meat is as bad as smoking” [are] simply untrue”. In the South West, a lot of the local commentary focussed on the understandable concerns of farmers, worried about the impact this might have on their industry. But a staunch defence of your industry can also sow the seeds of doubt around the core message: if you eat too much processed meat, then you should cut back.
It is exactly because these things are multi-faceted and complicated that we all ought to take note of them and to think about them. I, for one, am heading off to the Cancer Research UK website to have a look at their take on this news. I have a feeling that we may be back this way again…