Eat Food and Die

This post originally appeared on Reason.com and is reposted with permission.

By now you’ve heard about a new World Health Organization report that links consumption of bacon, sausage, beef, and other meats to cancer.

Some early reports, based on the WHO classification, painted the connection between bacon and cancer as equivalent to that between cigarette smoking and cancer.

Many activists used the WHO announcement as cause to take a victory lap#BanBacon, a subtle hashtag created earlier this year by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a vegan group, got a new workout.

The WHO report estimates that 34,000 out of 56 million annual deaths worldwide may be attributable to eating processed meats. Photo Credit: anokarina via Flickr.

But the facts appear to be catching up to the frenzy.

“It is certainly very inappropriate to suggest that any adverse effect of bacon and sausages on the risk of bowel cancer is comparable to the dangers of tobacco smoke, which is loaded with known chemical carcinogens and increases the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers by around 20 fold,” Dr. Ian Johnson of the Institute of Food Research told Britain’s Telegraph.

Perspective like this helps. As others have noted, the increased risk associated with eating bacon and the other foods listed in the WHO report is scant—something along the lines of an increase of one percentage point (from five percent to six percent). The WHO itself clarified this point in the wake of the fatalistic headlines caused by its report.

The WHO report estimates that 34,000 out of 56 million annual deaths worldwide may be attributable to eating processed meats. That’s 0.06 percent of all deaths worldwide.

The molehill of risk has real-world implications. In fact, it could lead to a mountain of regulations and litigation—beginning right here in America.

“Will the Golden State now require steaks, chops, and burgers to have such labels?”asked Reason’s Ron Bailey last month, in the wake of the WHO report.

Sure enough, reports emerged last week that the report would spur a clash in California.

Continue reading the full post on Reason.com.