Summertime cookouts are about to look a lot different to many people who will undoubtedly switch out brats, burgers, and steaks for chicken, pork, or even portabella mushrooms. The World Health Organization (WHO) is reportedly planning to classify red meat, bacon, sausages and other processed meats as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
That means that some of the world’s favorite foods will soon be in the same classification as cigarettes, alcohol, and asbestos. Red meat is likely to be ranked as only slightly less hazardous than preserved meats. 
Eating too much red meat has already been linked to heart disease, various types of cancer, and early death, but has never officially been classified as a cancer-causing food. In 2014, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – the same organization arm that classified the herbicide glyphosate as probably carcinogenic – cited studies linking red and processed meats to colorectal, esophageal, lung, and pancreatic cancer, saying that determining the connection was a “high priority.”
According to the World Cancer Research Fund, “There is strong evidence that eating a lot of these foods [red and processed meat] increases your risk of bowel cancer.” Experts estimate that half of all cases of the disease could be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle.
Additionally, according to Harvard Medical School, cutting out or reducing red meat consumption can help prolong your life by up to 20%. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found unequivocally that people who ate the most red meat (especially processed red meats) died younger, and most often from cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Scientists from 10 nations recently met to review all available evidence; the WHO’s decision is set to be released on Monday.
So, what is considered “processed meat”? Ham, bacon, hot dogs, pastrami are all examples. The products are loaded with sodium and are made using preserving techniques that can raise levels of cancer-causing chemicals. Even plain meat can contain a great deal of fat, and the compound that gives red meat its color is thought to damage the bowel lining. 
The meat industry will definitely suffer if red meat is labeled probably carcinogenic. Last year, sales of sugar fell after the WHO warned that eating too much sweet was hazardous to health. The industry argues that meat provides much-needed protein, vitamins, iron, and zinc. There is even more of an argument for consuming grass-fed, antibiotic- and growth-hormone free meat.
Betsy Booren, of the North American Meat Institute, said recently: “If they determine that red and processed meat causes cancer – and I think they will – that moniker will stick … It could take decades and billions of dollars to change that.”
Booren says the institute will fight the classification, just as it did when the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently reported that healthier diets are lower in red and processed meats.
This article originally appeared at Natural Society.
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