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World Vegan Day: Five Things We've Learned About Meat This Year

01/11/2015 12:31 | Updated 01 November 2015

This week the world was shocked to discover that meat can be as big a cancer threat as cigarettes.

A study from the World Health Organisation showed that processed meats were in the same category of carcinogenic substances as tobacco, alcohol and asbestos.

From carcinogenic bacon to hot dogs containing a dash of human DNA, here are the five things we've learned about meat this year so far.

  • 1 Processed meat is as bad as smoking and causes cancer
    zokru via Getty Images
    Eating processed meat such as bacon, ham and sausages puts you at the same risk of getting cancer as smoking does, the World Health Organisation revealed this week.
    The international health authority said that cured and processed meats are in the same category of carcinogenic substances as tobacco, alcohol and asbestos.
    WHO's report found that by eating 50g of processed meat a day - the equivalent to one sausage or two rashers of bacon - the chance of developing bowel cancer rose by nearly 20%.
    Dr. Kurt Straif, Head of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) programme responsible for the findings, said: “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”
  • 2 Red meat isn't very good for you, either
    Adam Gault via Getty Images
    The WHO discovered that red meat is also "probably" carcinogenic, with developed risks of bowel, pancreatic and prostate cancer.
    Researchers believe that one possible reason for the cancer link is that the compound which gives red meat its colour, haem, may damage the lining of the bowel.
    Studies also show that people who eat a lot of red meat tend to eat fewer plant-based foods which protect against cancer
    The World Cancer Research Fund International advises that people can reduce their bowel cancer risk by eating no more than 500g (cooked weight) per week of red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb.
  • 3 The dangers of antibiotics used in intense farming
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    In June, the use of antibiotics in intense, factory farming was criticised after a strain of MRSA in pork was found on British shelves.
    MRSA is a type of bacteria that's resistant to a number of widely used antibiotics.
    The new research was commissioned by The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics.
    Cóilín Nunan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Alliance, said: “Livestock-associated MRSA is evolving and more dangerous variations are emerging. Scientists are warning it could ultimately lead to a pandemic spread in humans as so many animals carry the superbug.”
    Speaking about the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, said: “The causal link between on-farm antibiotic use and human resistance is nevertheless widely recognised by organisations including the WHO and the EFSA.
    “There are already concerns that farm animals contribute to the 5,000 deaths a year in England caused by resistant E. coli bloodstream infections.”
  • 4 There's human DNA in hot dogs
    happyfoto via Getty Images
    Hot dog lovers may have some beef with a study that came out this week after it was revealed that certain varieties of the beloved food contain human DNA.
    The Clear Food Labs study also showed that even vegetarians could not be guaranteed that unwanted ingredients weren't making their way onto their plate, as 10% of the veggie dog brands tested contained meat.
    The company examined 345 hot dog samples from 75 brands. The human DNA found in the hot dogs was largely the result of hair and broken fingernails.
  • 5 73% of chicken is contaminated with a food poisoning bug
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    A food poisoning bug was found in nearly three quarters of fresh chickens in supermarkets and butchers, a year-long study from the Food Standards Agency found earlier this year.
    The FSA collected about 4,000 samples between February 2014 and February 2015.
    The results showed that 73% of poultry were contaminated with campylobacter and 19% of chickens were heavily contaminated.
    Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.
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