The World Health Organization recently released findings indicating that high consumption of processed meat can have harmful health effects for humans. Among the different kinds of processed meats mentioned were bacon, hot dogs, ham, and sausages.

Processed meat was categorized as a “Group 1” carcinogen, with sufficient evidence proving that such products are carcinogenic, thus dangerous to humans. Red meat was mentioned in these findings as “Group 2,” meaning that there is limited evidence to prove that such products are carcinogenic to humans. The red meats mentioned were muscle meats, including beef, veal, and pork.

When these findings were released, many seemed alarmed that so many popular food products are now increasingly shown to be incredibly unhealthy. However, not everyone is as frightened. Many people on social media are using the “#freebacon” hashtag, jokingly in support of processed meats.

Some ENC students who were asked for their opinion about the WHO report did not seem concerned about the findings. They declared that they would rather maintain their eating habits even while recognizing the risks associated with consuming certain meat products.

Sadly enough, in the same way that people continue to smoke cigarettes even when aware of the associated health problems, it seems that many are willing to simply overlook the consequences of their unhealthy dietary habits. We’ve known for years that over-eating processed food and meats is harmful to one’s health, with effects including obesity, high blood pressure, and high levels of cholesterol.

Even so, this information hasn’t stopped Americans from consuming hot dogs on Fourth of July or from grabbing fast-food burgers for lunch on a regular basis. It seems that the new information from the WHO merely irritated avid processed meat-eaters, rather than prompting them to change their diets. It’s as though the World Health Organization is being attacked as the bearer of bad news rather than regarded as the voice of reason when it comes to our future health.

Perhaps we can expect to have more questions about how much red and processed meat we consume at our next annual physical exams. I believe that the medical field should rally together to raise awareness and provide information about how to cut back on the consumption of dangerous types of meats.

As food consumers, we should re-evaluate just how much processed meat we eat throughout the week. The great news is that now more than ever we have a variety of other options as protein sources. Ultimately, moderation with regard to the consumption of meats, as well as other foods, is absolutely important.