Fears over cancer-causing bacon, justified?

Hi Fred, the two articles you have shared are quite sensationalist and have not reported a balanced story. For example, the leading sentence of the Guardian article reads, “The reputation of the meat industry will sink to that of big tobacco unless it removes cancer-causing chemicals from processed products such as bacon and ham…” This kind of fearmongering and science illiteracy is not on for someone who is supposed to be reporting on a science topic.

Bacon is in no way akin to cigarettes. Cigarettes are widely known to strongly increase cancer risk. bacon does not strongly increase cancer risk, only very, very mildly if faaarrrr too much of it is consumed over a lifetime. The correlation is simply a lie to set up a story not backed by evidence.

Another point is that less than 5% of one’s exposure to nitr(x)tes comes from processed meats while 97% comes from vegetables [1]. So if the articles cared about our exposure (and weren’t just jumping on the fear bandwagon as we all know the media loves to do), they would be advocating the removal or modification of vegetables to reduce our nitr(x)te exposure.

Sharing random articles and contributing no other discussion points other than a link is tolerated. Sharing misinformation, however, is not. Please understand and fact-check the sources and information you are spreading, so we can all contribute to a more intelligent community. Cheers Fred :slight_smile:

[1] http://gastrochemist.com/nitrates/


Agree @natural.thought.

Unfortunately many in the media make sensationalist stories to sell news and advertising. The more clicks, the more valuable the potential adverting revenue.

It is also worth noting that most foods have positive and negative nutritional value. Bacon is potentially no different but has been targeted recently due to nitrite and nitrate additions. I wonder if this additional publicity has been due to Australia now imported cured meat products from abroad? I recall similar attention when seafoods and fruits/vegetables also had the green light for importation. This seemed to stimulate sensational negative reporting of/from vested interest groups.

FSANZ has also presented some information on nitrate/nitrite in foods:



Thanks for that link, I should have used those numbers as they are for an Australia-specific context. Still very similar though, with meat-based exposure at 10%. I wonder if this is because of our meat-saturated diet here in Australia?

You make a very good point about most foods having both positive and negative nutritioinal value. A great example is cooked potatoes! They contain acrylamide, a substance which does not increase the risk in cancer in any of your organs for most people [1]. However, workers in factories that are exposed to high quantities of this pure substance do experience an increase in pancreatic cancer. So unless you eat 4 tonnes of potatoes a day, you’ll be safe from any negatives health effects due to acrylomide. I’d be worried about the other issues you’re creating by eating all those potatoes every single day though! :stuck_out_tongue:

Here’s the twist: acrylomide might actually help prevent other cancers from forming [2]! At the tiny quantities we consume acrylomide, it has been shown to lessen the risk of other cancers compared those who don’t consume acrylomide. (@Fred123, this second citation also explains what carcinogenity really means and why it’s so confusing for most people. Understanding how the classification system actually works helps one understand why most of the food, pesticide, etc controversies aren’t actually controversies.)

So acrylomide has very minor negative effects if you drink it in pure form, and very tangible positive effects when consumed within foods. It’s never as simple as “bacon is cigarettes”.

Continue learning and exploring! :slight_smile:

[1] Acrylomide in food. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSmO-gbCx8s&list=WL&index=6
[2] Why cancer labels are misleading. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7MXnTJBwS4&list=WL&t=0s&index=201
(The above references are science videos produced by a team of respected, independent scientists who are passionate about free online education. All video citations can be found in the video’s description.)


It’s great to see the Community discussing and examining the facts behind the headlines, and also thanks to @Fred123 for presenting the opportunity by posting the article. I’m hoping 2019 will be a year if myth busting :slight_smile: