A controversial ruling by the World Health Organisation states that pork products such as bacon, ham and sausages could pose as big a cancer threat as cigarettes.
In accordance with the verdict, the World Health Organisation will publish a report on Monday outlining the dangers of consuming processed meats.
Central to this contentious report will be the suggestion that meat products such as bacon, ham and sausages should be considered carcinogenic.
As part of this ruling, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer will classify processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans”.
This is the highest of five possible rankings that the products could be classified as, and effectively puts them on par with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes.
The new classification of these products follows on from previous reportage from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
For several years, WCRF has stated that there is significant evidence linking red meat with bowel cancer in particular.
It also believes that processed meats in even small quantities increase the risk of contracting cancer.
Although the reasons behind this are not fully understood, one possible explanation for this phenomenon is related to haem.
This compound provides red meat with its colouring, and it is thought by many researchers that it may play a role in damaging the lining of the bowel.
It is also believed that meats preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by adding preservatives, can result in cancer-causing substances being formed.
The dangers of red meat can also be activated to other diet-related elements.
It has been particularly noted that large consumers of red meat tend to eat fewer plants-based foods that protect against cancer.
The WCRF advises that people can reduce their bowel cancer risk by eating no more than 500g per week of red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb.
It also believes that people should consume processed meats such as ham, bacon and salami as little as possible.
Red meat consumption has multiplied by several fold in many nations in the 20th century and early years of the 21st century, due to several factors.
Among these, the production of meat has become more affordable, and the level of disposable income has generally increased worldwide.
Additionally, farming subsidies have typically been provided for meat-producing agriculture, thus exacerbating the problem.
The average person in the UK consumes approximately 60g of meat every day, but 33 per cent have more than 100g per day.
This suggests that one-in-three UK individuals could be at risk of a heightened incidence of cancer risk based on diet and meat consumption alone.
However, the verdict of the World Health Organisation has not been welcomed in all quarters.
Aside from the fact that people with a vested interest in selling meat have naturally been critical of the verdict, other health campaigners do not necessarily agree with bracketing red meat with cigarettes in particular.