Processed meat linked to cancer; Sarasota butcher offers advice

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – The World Health Organization’s cancer agency says that processed meats such as ham and sausage can lead to colon and other cancers, and red meat is probably cancer-causing as well. Researchers from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, released an evaluation of more than 800 studies from several continents about meat and cancer.

Based on that evaluation, they classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” – in the same category as cigarettes – and red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Meat industry groups protest the classification, arguing that cancer is not caused by specific foods but by several factors.

Doctors and many government agencies have long warned that a diet loaded with red meat is linked to cancers, including of the colon and pancreas.

Scott McGowan owns the Butcher’s Block, a longtime Sarasota butcher shop. He said meat eaters shouldn’t worry about this study. “I think everything in moderation. We don’t need to sit down and eat a pound and a half steak … Six to eight ounces won’t hurt anybody,” McGowan said.

McGowan makes his own sausage and cuts his own meats. He says he only serves minimally processed meat. He’s learned over the years his customers want to avoid hormones and additives.

Eating minimally processed meat can help cut down on any cancer risks, McGowan said. “Everybody is trying to go the healthier way, so we’ve gotten away from that as much as we can,” he said.

Longtime customer Wayne Genthner thinks it’s ultimately up to consumers to lower their cancer risks. Eating too much meat is a choice. “Going shopping and buying right and not making mistakes, this is part of being a mature person. And smart, mature people live longer,” Genthner said. “I think you have to shop right and you have to balance your diet. You can’t just sit there and eat a pound of bacon and not think it’s going to affect you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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