I was quite fascinated (and could easily have become depressed) at the very predictable reaction to the news that processed meats (read: bacon) is bad for you. First off, this isn’t news. If you thought that bacon is good for you, you’ve been living in a different world from me for the past 50 years. It has always been completely clear and obvious for my entire life that bacon is a fatty piece of pork, with a ton of salt, a bunch of artificial colours, and a huge portion of preservatives. Not the recipe for good health.
So, yesterday, there is news that processed meats may lead to cancer. In very predictable (and sad) response people said things like “so, now they’re telling me that I can’t eat bacon”, and “so, everything causes cancer”. My response to this is “no” and “no”. First off, no, everything does not cause cancer. However, carcinogens do, and bacon is full of them. That’s really pretty simple, folks. Unless they are added to a squash, the squash does not cause cancer. Once again, simple.
Now, for the part that really annoys me. Nobody, at any time, has told you to not eat bacon. You are very confused about what science is if you think that. Researchers have figured out what is in bacon, and what causes cancer, and the stuff that causes cancer is in bacon. Period. End of story.
You can still eat bacon. You can eat whatever the hell you want. Sit down to a big plate of asbestos if you want to. You’re an adult, make a choice. However, some people in a lab have determined a really simple thing … bacon contains carcinogens. They may even think that bacon is yummy, a lot of people do. That, however, has absolutely zero bearing on what is in the bacon and how those things effect your health. Again: there is stuff in bacon, and that stuff is linked to cancer. Is there something in that sentence that says “don’t eat bacon”? Nope. No dinner recommendations whatsoever, just a really basic statement of fact. However, you now know more about what you’re putting into your body. With that information, you (yes, you) can decide whether to go on the all-bacon diet or not. Go ahead … have a cigarette with it if you want …
This is all kind of odd to me, however. Everyone has always known what is in processed meat. This isn’t news. I’ve known that the contents of processed meats are hazardous to your health pretty much my entire life. I don’t have access to some privileged information or a special news service. These things are part meat, part chemical soup, and always have been. If I recall, nitrites are the things that I really want to watch for and there are lots of them in these products.
Oh, and I even caught a hint of conspiracy theory in the “boo hoo, they won’t let me eat bacon anymore” crowd. Seems that science is just bound and determined to ruin tailgate parties, and researchers are being paid by someone (I can’t imagine who) to stop people from eating yummy meat. I suppose this is even scarier than the aforementioned belief that you can’t choose anymore. While politicians and business people do pay money for ideas with no grounding in reality, science works differently (unless the scientists are bought and paid for by the politicians or the business people). When science is done right, what people want to think has nothing to do with it. These researchers (and this has been repeated a million times) just found out what is in bacon (which is pretty easy really) and found out what is carcinogenic (not that hard either). They’re the same things, so using all of their scientific brain-power, they concluded that processed meats are connected to cancer. This doesn’t require a hatred of barbecues or a mission to ruin your weekend … it’s just what it is.
So, bacon will not be made illegal, and you will not be stopped by the authorities for eating bacon. Everything is exactly the same as it was before, except that now some people who were pretending to understand meat actually know more than they used to. Even though they know more now, they can still choose to eat it like they always have. Scientists have not changed the nature of processed meats, they have just given you a more realistic idea of what you’re dealing with. So, go ahead, make a decision, do whatever the hell you want. This isn’t about beliefs or whether bacon is yummy … it’s just about what’s in the food, and what those ingredients do to you. That’s it.