For anyone who’s paid any attention at all to the growing scientific consensus about processed and red meat (that eating a lot of it is probably very bad for you), the World Health Organization’s announcement Monday should have been no shocker.
But, then again, this is the country that proudly brought you Frankenfoods like a bacon-and-cheese sandwich with slabs of fried chicken substituted for bread. So naturally, people kinda freaked out.
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And here in Texas, some got defensive. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller insists Texans shouldn’t worry about the WHO findings or feel the need to change their diets. “Lean red meat has long been, and will continue to be, an important part of a balanced diet,” he told the Texas Tribune. Consider it another shot fired in Texas' war on science (or another blow in Miller's war on the war on obesity).
The WHO on Monday announced that its panel of 22 international experts arrived at their conclusion — that processed meats, like sausage and bacon, cause cancer and that red meat probably does, too — after reviewing decades of science linking red meat and processed meats to cancer. The panel looked at everything from animal experiments to studies of the human diet and cell processes. Specifically, the WHO panel pointed to studies that indicate an additional 3.5 ounces of read meat daily can raise the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 percent. An additional 1.8 ounces of processed meat per day can raise that risk by 18 percent, according to those studies.
They're the same findings cancer experts in Miller's own state have been warning about for years. Still, the WHO announcement, which the Washington Post called “one of the most aggressive stances against meat ever taken by a major health organization,” drew a strong rebuke from the U.S. beef industry, which has called the WHO report “dramatic and alarmist overreach.”
Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau, told the Tribune, “To put red meat in the same sentence as tobacco and asbestos is absurd. For the time being, I’m going to assume the public’s appetite for red meat will remain strong.”