The report by the World Health Organization on red meat and sausage in late October has been a bombshell: the International Agency for Research against Cancer (IARC) classified charcuterie among the proven carcinogens, and red meat among the probable carcinogens. * In the press, processed meat has been put on the same footing as asbestos and tobacco, these three elements form part of the category of proven carcinogens. It regretted that IARC itself thereafter.

A message that is confusing

Yet this is the CIRC is responsible for much of the observed fuss in the media: a press office announced that a report on request containing very important information would be released two days later. This has inflated the importance, while not actually contained little new. The link between colorectal cancer and high consumption of red meat and processed meat, such as sausages, is indeed long been known. In Belgium, the Higher Health Council repeated since 2013 that we had better not to eat more than 500 grams of red meat and sausage per week, because the risk of cancer is 10% to 20% higher in people who consume more.

The only real news is that red meat and sausage products are now included in the IARC classification. It is unfortunate that journalists do not bother to check what kind of info before releasing all directions. Some media do not care quite create panic with items without nuance on health. Result: after receiving such misleading messages, people no longer know what they can eat and in what quantities.


The famous class 1 IARC classification, which ended up cold cuts, currently contains 117 substances considered carcinogenic certainly including asbestos, alcohol and cigarettes. Category 2 contains 74 probably carcinogenic, which now as red meat. The categories do not reflect the relative hazard of carcinogenic but the degree of scientific certainty at a specific time. Thus, we know with 100% certainty that a high consumption of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer, as we know with certainty that smoking can cause lung cancer. The comparison between the two do not go away! It is clear that smoking is much more carcinogenic than a slice of salami. Red meat has been included in Category 2, that of “probable carcinogens”, due to a lower level of evidence.

Studies show that red meat-eating also lives less healthy: it moves less, smoke more, eat less fruit and vegetables and drink more alcohol; it is also often less qualified. It is therefore very difficult to determine the impact of these different elements, which is why the WHO experts dare not speak with certainty about the link between red meat and colorectal cancer. Regarding processed meat, however, to which is added chemicals such as nitrite and nitrosamines, the link is clear. The most important message is and remains that we had better not to eat too much red meat and sausage.

20% vs 900

In Belgium, about 8,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. This cancer is associated with various risk factors. If we are powerless against some of them (genetic, familial predisposition risk), we can nevertheless affect others, including five factors to similar effect: overweight, smoking, inactivity, alcohol and red meat. Each of these factors increase the risk of colorectal cancer by about 20%. By comparison, smoking increases the risk of lung cancer 900%. A 20% increase is relatively small, and says nothing about individuals since it concerns the whole population. According to calculations of scientists, if everyone was sticking to maximum 500g of red meat and sausage per week, there would be 10-20% of cases of colorectal cancers in less. In our country, this corresponds to a decrease of 1,200 diagnoses per year. In an article in De Standaard, Professor Martijn Katan nutrition (University of Amsterdam) has qualified figures as follows:. “The chance that you will never contractiez colorectal cancer is 94% with meat and 95% without”

What and how much meat

Scientists distinguish three kinds of meat: red meat, white meat and processed meat.

Red meat is red before you were preparing the: beef, mutton, lamb, pork and other animal species (game, kangaroo …). White meat comes from poultry (chicken and turkey) and fish, according to some. High consumption of white meat is not a risk factor, this has been proven. Processed meat is meat that has undergone any processing before being sold: smoke, mixed with herbs or sauces … the meats, the mince, patties, sausage are examples .

If you eat two slices of salami in the morning, a ham sandwich for lunch and spaghetti bolognaise in the evening you ingurgitez in a day 200 g of processed meat, ie almost half the amount not to exceed a week, according to the Higher Health Council. Insert the variety on the menu with poultry, fish, eggs and vegetable alternatives.

* IARC, established by WHO, is coordinating research into the causes of cancer and to this end conducts epidemiological and toxicological studies. The classification of carcinogens into 4 categories (proven carcinogenic to probably not carcinogenic to humans) refers worldwide.

Nutritional meat

Meat is a valuable foodstuff, to incorporate into a healthy diet, because protein, vitamins and minerals it contains. Meat can certainly be high in saturated fats, except her meager variants. It is not necessary to eat meat, provided to replace it with other products. But there is no more reason to strike out menu, if you like to eat. The meat is good for health, as long as you consume it with moderation.