WHO report linking meat to cancer 'absurd': Australian minister

Updated: 2015-10-27 10:09


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WHO report linking meat to cancer 'absurd': Australian minister

Bacon is fried up in a pan in a kitchen in this photo illustration in Golden, Colorado, October 26, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

CANBERRA -- Australia's Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce on Tuesday slammed a World Health Organization (WHO) report which said bacon, sausages and other processed meats were carcinogenic to humans.

Joyce called the report a "farce" and said that humans would be "heading back to the cave" if they followed the advice of the WHO report.

The study said there was "sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer," and, according to the WHO, processed meats - such as sausages, bacon, hot dogs and other cured meats - were a Group 1 carcinogen because of their links with bowel cancer.

Red meats, such as beef and lamb, were placed in Group 2A which was labeled as "probably carcinogenic to humans" because of links to both prostate and pancreatic cancer.

But Joyce told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that comparing sausages to cigarettes as a Group 1 carcinogen was absurd.

"(Meat) shouldn't be compared to cigarettes and obviously that makes the whole (report) a farce - comparing sausages to cigarettes," Joyce said.

"I don't think that we should get too excited that if you have a sausage you're going to die of bowel cancer because you're not."

Joyce said ensuring a balanced diet, like the ones most Australians practice, was the key to living a long and healthy life.

He said the basis of the report was not a reflection of a typical balanced diet.

The report detailed that those who eat more than 50 grams of processed meat every day - two slices of bacon, for example - have an 18 percent higher risk of developing bowel cancer.

"A lot of people, to be honest, don't eat two slices of bacon a day, they don't have bacon every day and I think the biggest thing is to make sure you get a balanced diet," the agriculture minister said.

Joyce said it would be impossible for humans to avoid all cancer-causing substances, adding, "If you got everything that the World Health Organization said was carcinogenic and took it out of your daily requirements, well you are kind of heading back to a cave."