Ban Bacon Says Aseem Malhotra – Hey, Wait, What, Ban Bacon?

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2025

A call to ban the production of bacon and ham using traditional means arrives today. This isn’t quite what Aseem Malhotra and others say, instead they call merely for the production of bacon to not use nitrites. The difficulty with this being that bacon is, closely enough, the preservation of meat using nitrites. Sure, we can preserve meat in other ways – use sodium chloride as in salt preservation for example. We can can, freeze, pickle in vinegar, steep in wine, all are meat preservation methods that have been successfully used and we can do that with pork – as has been done at times and places. But none of those methods produce bacon, the point of bacon production being to, well, to produce bacon, isn’t it?

Fortunatley, we’ve a useful guide here. If Aseem Malhotra is on one side of a health question then reality is on the other often enough. Sadly, he’s not 100% the butt end of the compass, unlike Polly Toynbee, but it’s still a useful indicator for us:

Leading scientists and a cross-party group of politicians are calling for chemicals called nitrites to be removed from processed meats like bacon. Cancer specialists and politicians are among those backing the campaign to take out nitrites. They say nitrite-free alternatives are safer and should be more widely used. The British Meat Processors Association said nitrites are used in curing meats to help preserve them and add flavour and they are authorised additives.

This all coming to us from:

The coalition is led by Professor Chris Elliott, the food scientist who ran the government’s investigation into the horse meat scandal, and Dr Aseem Malhotra, a leading NHS cardiologist.

Good, so we’re really pretty sure it’s bunkum, but why? Two answers from a discussion group:

Eating two slices of bacon a day raises the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Eating 4oz of beef per day increases the risk of cancer by 17%. Both figures from the WHO. Not sure how they combine – does eating a bacon-topped burger every day give you a 35% greater risk? Anyway, your lifetime risk of bowel cancer is 6%, so an 18% increase just nudges it up to 7%.

It’s relative risk that matters that is. Further:

– People know the potential risks.
– They can easily choose not to take those risks.
– Among those who do, the problem is minuscule (6000 calculated deaths a year).
– A ban will deprive people of some level of quality and variety in their short lives.
– Therefore this is none of the government’s business.
– If you really have to, you can put a “health warning” on bacon and salami.

Or, as we might put it, stop buggering about with our bacon. It’s our death to choose and a smidgeon more chance of it being bowel cancer that carries us off rather than Alzheimer’s is worth it for a lifetime of being able to eat bacon as Moccus intended we all should.

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Matt Ryan
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Matt Ryan

If you thinly slice food scientists and cardiologists and mix with nitrates do they produce good bacon?

timworstall
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timworstall

Does the proof work the other way around? If they do can we call them pigs?

discoveredjoys
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discoveredjoys

…and if your reduce the risks of dying from cancer, you increase the risks of dying from something else instead. What we need is a better assessment of the impact of avoiding extra risk in our lives. If not eating bacon extends our lives *on average* by a week then the benefits may not be worthwhile. If not eating bacon extends our lives *on average* by five years then it may be worth considering. Unless those extra 5 years are spent suffering from dementia….