WHO’s Report On Processed Meat And Cancer Not Likely To Hurt Meat Industry

October 29, 2015

Forbes

It was news only a vegetarian or vegan could love.

Earlier this week, as you’ve likely heard, the World Health Organization‘s International Agency for Research on Cancer released a report that states emphatically that processed meats, like hot dogs and bacon, cause cancer.

The news media was all over that, like, well, pigs on slop.

Of course, it should be noted that the report stated that the problem is for those who eat 50 grams of processed meat every day – less than two slices of ham or bacon, according to numerous reports. Doing that will increase the risk of cancer by 18 percent. Which is a little different than stating you will get cancer no matter what, if you ever eat any bacon or ham. You almost might think that from some of the headlines out there.

Still, if your business is in meat, should you be worried by this report? And are you likely to see a sales slump?

It’s too early to tell in terms of numbers what impact the report is having, but from a handful of anecdotes and opinions that I solicited, it seems as if your company sells a lot of meat, you can continue with your business plan. No need to start thinking about starting a business specializing in kumquats or celery.

Personal Trainer Food, a national weight loss and fit meal home delivery company based near Dallas, features a menu laden with bacon, Angus beef hamburger patties and sausages.

“Considering we ship out about 30,000 pounds of food a day, we braced ourselves … for an onslaught of calls from customers with questions and concerns. We received zero,” says Shane Allen, a spokesperson for the company. “No customer we’ve spoken to in the past 48 hours has even batted an eye at the WHO’s ridiculous announcement. Furthermore, internal data shows our sales have remained steady.”

Anne VanBeber, a professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, says that she thinks that the WHO report won’t have any meaningful effect on the food industry.

“Will bacon and sausage companies see a hit? I also say, ‘No,’ ” VanBeber says. “ Fast food places? No. I think life will go on as normal.”

VanBeber notes that the WHO report, while perhaps using stronger language than we’re used to seeing, isn’t a much different takeaway than similar studies we’ve seen in the past.

“I have been following the American Cancer Society nutrition guidelines for about 30 years. They have always indicated that processed meats might be correlated to cancer,” she says. “The ACS guidelines have suggested that people limit their consumption of red meat, processed meats, and grilled meats for many years, due to the nitrosamines that could be created in the process of cooking and processing of the meats. ​This has been discussed as one of the ways these meats might be linked to cancers.”

VanBeber does add that if you’re eating bacon or a hot dog every day, “that should be cause for alarm for many reasons, not just the correlation with cancer.”

David Corsun, an associate professor at the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management in Denver, agrees that he doesn’t see a big shakeup coming in the food industry.

This is, after all, a world in which there are bacon-of-the-month clubs, and there’s practically a cottage industry of bacon-themed T-shirts with slogans like, “Bacon Makes Everything Better” and “You Had Me at Bacon.” And the report says that eating processed meats every day increases the risk of cancer by 18 percent — not a more troubling number like, say, 81 percent.

Which is why ,Corsun says, “I’m not sure [this report] is going to produce a lot of behavior change. I have to believe there are a lot of people out there whose response to this recent finding was a sarcastic: No kidding.”

Nonetheless one industry will probably get some positive uptick from the report – businesses that promote healthy eating, and the relatively small vegetarian and vegan food sector.

Andy Levitt, founder of Purple Carrot, a vegan food delivery service, says that he has already seen “a dramatic increase in the incoming requests from customers in the past 24 hours and trust that this is just the start of something much bigger that will be taking place in the weeks and months ahead.”

Robert Cox, owner of VBurger, a vegan burger establishment that opened in New York City today, also seems equally enthused by the news. “It’s incredibly scary that processed meats like hot dogs and bacon can possibly cause cancer, but that is why it’s so important for people to understand what they are putting into their bodies,” he says.

Cox is hoping that customers will enticed by the restaurant’s menu items like the Einstein Burger, made of cauliflower and potato, and the Spicy Black Bean Burger.