IARC expected to label red, processed meats as carcinogens

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2015 - The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reportedly will label red and processed meats as cancer-causing agents in a report to be released on Monday.

The report will touch on the outcome of an IARC meeting on the subject, and is expected to say that red and processed meats pose cancer risks to consumers. In a release, the North American Meat Institute said that conclusion defies “both common sense and dozens of studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer and other studies showing the many health benefits of balanced diets that include meat.”

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Barry Carpenter, NAMI's president and CEO, said many substances are considered to be hazardous substances under IARC review.

“Red and processed meat are among 940 substances reviewed by IARC found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard,'” Carpenter said in a statement. “Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by IARC not to cause cancer,” he said. “Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health.”

Carpenter pointed out the wide range of products considered by the IARC to be cancer-causing, ranging from aloe vera and grilled food to sunlight and air. He said IARC reviews fail to consider the health benefits derived from meat consumption, so it fails to address the bigger picture.

“If this is actually IARC's decision, it simply cannot be applied to people's health because it considers just one piece of the health puzzle: theoretical hazards,” Carpenter said. “Risks and benefits must be considered together before telling people what to eat, drink, drive, breathe, or where to work.”

IARC confirmed in a statement on its website that it is issuing a report at noon Eastern time on Monday and that there had been “random reports in the British press postulating on the outcome on the carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meat.” It said the reports appeared, although “no embargoed material was shared with any news outlet, in Britain or elsewhere.”


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The agency said the report will be released along with a news story in The Lancet Oncology.

If the report does indeed label red and processed meats as carcinogens, it wouldn't be the first time an IARC ruling had an impact on agriculture. In March, the panel ruled that glyphosate, one of the most widely-used herbicides in agriculture, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Monsanto strongly rejected IARC's conclusion. On its website, Monsanto says “all labeled uses for glyphosate are safe for human health and supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health databases.” In addition, it says IARC's finding on glyphosate “is not supported by scientific data.”

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