What a time to be alive and veg-centric! Not so long ago, many baristas would probably laugh right in your face for requesting something so obscure as soymilk, and now those very same coffee shops and restaurants offer not only soy, but almond and coconut creamers as well. The tide’s shifting for the better. Veganism has hit the mainstream, finding greater understanding and acceptance than ever before. We recently had a World Vegan Day, a powerful reminder of just how much the movement has grown and spread, emphasized by the fact that the term “vegan” is only 70 years old!
Now for the big news
The big thing that happened recently is that the World Health Organization has officially proclaimed processed meat guilty of increasing the chances of bowel cancer. The WHO panel of 22 international experts reviewed decades of research that dealt with connection between red meat, processed meats and cancer. As a conclusion, research division of the World Health Organization announced that sausage, bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer. Research wasn’t so conclusive about red meat but many agree it has a high chance of affecting us adversely. Their report tells us that 50 grams of processed meat per day - which would equal to about two slices of bacon increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%. Kurt Straif, an official with the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, said that the risk of getting bowel cancer is initially small, but rises as person’s meat consumption increases. Approximately 34.000 death cases from cancer around the world every year are attributable to diets rich with processed meats, according to figures cited by the panel.
Questioning your choices
Clear message here is that we should avoid meat, or at least diversify our diet as much as we can. Many were unaware of just how bad processed meat is, and now a lot of people got concerned, especially parents of young children. The best time to instill good diet habits to your child is from an early age, so what food should be avoided? Processed meat includes sausages, bacon, canned meat, hot dogs, salami, beef jerky and ham as well as many meat-based sauces. Simply put, any food that’s been modified to either extend its life on the shelf or alter the taste is deemed as processed. Putting beef through a meat grinder doesn’t mean that the mince coming out is "processed" unless it is further modified with additives.
Consequences on the industry
To no surprise, after reports from the World Health Organization were made public, the meat industry took the same stance as the tobacco industry in the sixties, which is the denial and the usual discussion about moderation and sensibility. Response issued from The North American Meat Institute describes the IARC’s findings as “dramatic and alarmist”. Even the undisputed fast food giant, McDonald’s, is coping with hard times. Emerging competition on one side and health consciousness on another certainly challenged the popularity of its product. Reports show that growing chains like Chipotle, which recently stopped using genetically modified ingredients, diverted customers away from McDonald’s. Dietary preferences among Americans are changing so it makes sense that fast food chains are slowly removing toxic chemicals from their ingredients. Organic, healthy food is also becoming cheaper since stores that offer them are popping up left and right, creating competition that, in the end, benefits the customers.
There has never been a better time for vegans, reducetarians and others who are concerned about their diet to join forces. Warning labels on bacon are not going to hurt the meat industry any more than warnings on a pack of smokes destroying the tobacco industry, but it’s the right thing to do and a moral imperative, especially now that we know about these cancer risks. We have finally come to a point where various factions of the food movement are united in ensuring that processed meats are labeled accordingly, so that at least people know the risks they’re taking. Not so long ago it would probably seem unreasonable to suggest that bacon deserves the sort of warning label found on a pack of cigarettes. But things are changing and now it’s inevitable for certain meat products to eventually get stamped with health warning labels - and there can be no better indicator of the food movement’s maturity and effectiveness than how quickly we can unite to make this happen.