Hand med varmkorv. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/Scanpix.
One of Sweden's most popular snacks. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/Scanpix.

WHO: Bacon, sausages and hot dogs DO cause cancer

"We have warned Swedes of the dangers for quite some time"
1:41 min

Processed meats - such as bacon, sausages and ham - do cause cancer, according to the UN health body, the World Health Organization. It's the first time that foodstuffs are listed as a carcinogen, alongside cigarettes, as a cause of cancer. 

The report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence to put processed meats as group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer. 

The report said 50g of processed meat a day - less than two slices of bacon - increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.

In Sweden, colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer.

As for red meat in general, that is meat from beef, pork and lamb, the UN health body said that the evidence is not conclusive. Red meats were "probably carcinogenic" but there was limited evidence.

Sweden's National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) has long been warning Swedes that processed meat is a cancer hazard.It advises eating products such as ham, bacon and salami as little as possible and having no more than 500g a week of red meat, including beef, pork and lamb.

A study by the agency found that four out of ten women and seven out of ten men eat more than that in Sweden.

Processed meat is meat that has been modified to increase its shelf-life or alter its taste - such as by smoking, curing or adding salt or preservatives, which could be behind the increased risk of cancer.

Rickard Bjerselius, toxicologist at Sweden's National Food Agency, said:

"We don't know for sure but there are several factors that are said to work together, such as nitrates and salt as well as cooking at high temperatures such as on a barbeque." 

He said that their recommendations should not adversely affect people's lifestyles.

"500g of red meat a week might not sound a lot but it is still four meals a week. We have been advising people in Sweden for quite some time to limit their meat intake."

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