Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has dismissed claims by the World Health Organisation that eating meat can cause cancer by saying that “sunshine can cause cancer as well but that doesn’t mean people should not stand out in it”.
In his first public response to the findings published by the WHO on Monday, the Fine Gael minister said that the public has no reason to overreact to the revelations.
Detailed research from the WHO found that a regular diet of bacon, ham, and sausages is as likely to cause cancer as a daily addiction to cigarettes.
The study concluded that carcinogens hidden in the processed meat, a staple of the traditional Irish fry-up, are as dangerous as arsenic, alcohol, and asbestos.
However, in a point that has not received as much attention, the research noted that the issues only relate to long-term, consistent eating of processed meat and, as such, can be addressed with some small moderations to a person’s diet.
In his first public response to the conclusions at an event in the Curragh, Co Kildare, yesterday, Mr Coveney said people “should be careful not to categorise” all types of meat in the same way due to the research.
Dismissing the significant public attention the concerns have received, Mr Coveney said: “Sunshine can cause cancer as well, that doesn’t mean people should not stand out in it.”
The World Cancer Research Fund has warned for several years there is “strong evidence” that consuming a lot of red meat can cause bowel cancer.
It also says there is “strong evidence” that processed meats — even smaller quantities — increase cancer risk.
This is partially because a compound that gives red meat its colour may damage the lining of the bowel, allowing carcinogens to form.
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