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The World Health Organization classifies processed meats such as sausage, ham, and pâté, as a carcinogen.

Other red meat food items, such as lamb, pig, and cow are categorized as “probable” carcinogens, for lack of proper scientific evidence.

Processed Meat and Cancer

This is the first time that WHO lists foods that not only increase the risk of cancer but is a direct cause of cancer. Alongside other substances associated with a higher cancer risk, such as arsenic and asbestos.

Researchers have previously seen a correlation between the processed meat and cancer. But now WHO goes further and states that processed meat causes cancer. This is the riskiest level of five possible rankings.

The classification decision come amid mounting concern that meat fuels the disease. Much scientific research has shown a correlation between the consumption of processed meat and bowel cancer, colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer.


A probable major cause of processed meat is associated with increased cancer risk is Sodium nitrite, also known as E250, which is used as a preservative, coloring, and flavoring in some bacon, processed meat, and smoked foods.

The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies recommends avoiding this additive as there is evidence linking it to cancer. It is however often necessary to avoid dangerous bacteria, as it inhibits the growth of disease-causing microorganisms, specifically Clostridium botulinum.

Processed meat is made by smoking, curing, salting, or adding chemicals.

IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat