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The Threat of Cancer Isn't Stopping Bacon-Lovers

Despite a damning report from the WHO linking processed meat to cancer, consumers appear to be eating as much bacon as ever.
Photo via Flickr user rdowd

Nary a day goes by that some pageview-seeking publication doesn't attempt to ruin your appetite and reel in clicks with the news that one of your favorite foods is slowly killing you.

Barbecue. Toast. Plain old white bread. Pizza crusts. Hell, even pizza boxes.

Skeptics often rush to point out that the studies on which these reports are based are too small, not rigorous enough, or not applicable to human physiology to warrant too much worry. To that end, the studies are easy enough to ignore—annoying flak that disappears from your mind as quickly as an ill-conceived tweet.


But back in October, the venerable World Health Organization dropped a bombshell that no one could ignore: Eating bacon and other processed meats not only can but does increase the risk of developing cancer.

The global response was alarmed, to say the least. Italy's prosciutto producers distanced themselves from the report, while the makers of Spain's beloved jamón and chorizo rejected the findings completely. Germany and Austria, the wurst lovers of them all, did the equivalent of plugging their ears while chanting "nah-nah-nah I can't hear you."

But those outside of the meat industry took a long, hard look at their rashers and decided that prematurely shuffling off this mortal coil wasn't worth the veritably sexual pleasure of eating bacon. More than any other group, Britons began buying fewer processed meats, purchasing 15.7 percent less sausage and nearly 17 percent less bacon in the weeks after the report was published.

It didn't last for long, though. By December, processed meat sales had surged back to their usual levels, according to the UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Photo via Flickr user Val D'Aquila

Photo via Flickr user Val D'Aquila

Consumer trends seem to be going the same way in the US. "The bacon business appears to be immune to the consumer trend toward healthier cuisine," said Morgan Stanley's chief economist Ellen Zentner in January.

And this week, Tech Insider's Chris Weller spoke to Joel Crews, the editor-in-chief of Meat+Poultry, who asserted, "[To] say the demand for bacon is on the decline is not something we are seeing here on the front lines of the industry." A representative from Hormel told Weller the same.

If true, that's great news for pork producers, incautious bacon-lovers, and colorectal cancer cells that are just dying to wile out and metastasize. Pigs, however, won't be celebrating anytime soon.