Food & Beverage

The end of the road for bacon and pies?

Anmar Frangoul | Special to

Are we about to lose our appetite for hot dogs, bacon, and pies?

With experts at the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stating that a 50 gram serving of processed meat a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent – and that the consumption of red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans – the question of whether the meat industry as a whole could be damaged is a pressing one.

zeljkosantrac | iStock | Getty Images

In the light of the WHO's findings, could meat producers be about to take a hit?

"It's too early to tell if the IARC's conclusions will have a market impact, but the U.K. Government's advice on meat eating is unchanged," Stephen Rossides, Director of the British Meat Processors Association, told CNBC via email.

Rossides added that the government's advice states that meat can "be part of a healthy balanced diet," and that meat remained a source of important nutrients.

His views echoed the line taken by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. "IARC isn't saying eating red and processed meat as part of a balanced diet causes cancer: no single food causes cancer," Maureen Strong, nutrition manager at the AHDB, said in a statement.

Strong went on to add that, "Red and processed meat plays an important role in a balanced diet, providing protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins," she said. "There's no evidence that removing meat from your diet protects against cancer."

One of the U.K.'s most famous pork products is the Melton Mowbray pork pie. A delicacy of pork – classified as a red meat by the National Health Service and WHO – jelly and pastry, it holds a prestigious Protected Geographical Indication status from the European Union.

"Whilst the WHO report is important, it does not suggest that meat is eliminated completely from the diet and everyone turns into a vegetarian," Matthew O'Callaghan, chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, told CNBC over email.

"What it stresses is the need for a balanced diet in which meat, though an important element, is consumed in moderate amounts," O'Callaghan added.

"The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie is made with fresh pork and as such would be no different from pork baked in an oven as part of a Sunday roast."

The distinction between the pork used in a Melton Mowbray pork pie – fresh, not cured – is an important one, and O'Callaghan said he did not think there would be a drop in sales as a result of the report.

"The report emphasises the need for a balanced diet of which the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie could form part," he added.

By Anmar Frangoul, Special to; follow him on Twitter @AnmarFrangoul