In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, new research has revealed a link between eating too much processed meat and premature death. Some 3% of all premature deaths may be due to the consumption of too much processed meat, the study suggests.
Processed meats include sausages, bacon, ham, salami and pepperoni.
The study involved almost 450,000 people aged between 35 and 69 from 10 European countries, including the UK, France, Spain, Sweden and Greece. None of the participants had ever suffered a heart attack or stroke, and none had cancer at the start of the study.
The scientists from the University of Zurich found that, in general, people who ate a lot of processed meat tended to make other unhealthy choices, such as not eating enough fruit and vegetables and smoking.
However, the scientists also found that a person’s risk of premature death increased with the amount of processed meat they ate.
In fact, people who ate more than 40g per day of processed meat – a normal-sized sausage weighing around 54g – had a higher risk of premature death compared to people who ate less than 20g per day.
Furthermore, the risk of mortality increased by around 18% for every 50g of processed meat consumed per day. The link was particularly evident in relation to premature deaths from heart disease and cancer.
However, the scientists emphasised that meat is a major source of key vitamins and minerals, such as iron.
“Therefore, the moderate consumption of up to 40 grams a day doesn’t increase the mortality risk,” the team said.
The UK government recommends eating no more than 70g of red or processed meat – two slices of bacon – a day.
A spokesperson said: “People who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down.”