Social media expressed its love for bacon Tuesday after a controversial international report released Monday said processed meats (like bacon) can cause cancer. Many experts agree the report has merit, but say it’s still OK to eat bacon in moderation. (Photo: Getty Images)
Bacon lovers took to social media on Tuesday to express disdain over a World Health Organization report that said processed meat is likely to cause cancer.
The hashtags #FreeBacon, #Bacongeddon and #JeSuisBacon were among the top-trending topics worldwide on Twitter for a second straight day.
Celebrities, politicians and ordinary consumers were reacting to Monday’s announcement by the WHO that eating processed meats including hot dogs, sausages and bacon can cause colorectal cancer in humans, and that red meat is also a likely cause of the disease.
The review by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also said there was some link between the consumption of red meat and pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer. The IARC examined some 800 studies during a meeting of 22 health experts earlier this month.
An analysis of social media sentiment by Thomson Reuters found that social media participants were not happy about the WHO review.
Negative tweets outnumbered positive ones by a ratio of nearly 7 to 1 on Monday and 6.5 to 1 on Tuesday, according to the analysis tool that tracks and aggregates positive, neutral and negative tweets with hashtags #cancer and #bacon in order to generate a sentiment score.
Fashion designer Kenneth Cole (@mr_kennethcole) on Tuesday tweeted “Sugar is bad for you, Carbs are bad for you, and now so is #Bacon, but don’t worry about it, because that’s bad for you too. #IfTheShoeFits”
Austrian politician Andrae Rupprechter (@Andrä Rupprechter) posted a picture of himself on his Facebook page with a platter of cold cuts, calling the WHO report a “farce.”
Germany’s agriculture minister, Christian Schmidt, also said “no one should be afraid if they eat a bratwurst (sausage) every now and then.”
WHO’s initial tweet on Monday about its findings - “The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the #cancer agency of WHO, classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1)” - had more than 3,040 retweets and 1,000 favorites on Tuesday.
Andrew Chan, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Yahoo Health that “The epidemiological data supporting an association between processed and red meats and colon cancer is very strong.”
“There is definitely some reason for caution about the consumption of red and processed meats,” he says.
Christopher Wild, PhD, director of the WHO division that put out the report, acknowledged in a press release that red meat has nutritional value and does not say that people should avoid it altogether. Rather, the WHO encourages government agencies to “balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations.”
Chan also says people shouldn’t avoid red meat but should limit their intake. “It’s pretty clear that the link between consumption of meat with cancer appears to be dose-related,” he says. “The more you eat, the higher your risk.”
Chan says it’s “reasonable” to continue to include red meat in a balanced diet, provided it’s limited.
Additional Reporting by Korin Miller for Yahoo Health
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