Eating hot dogs may be a national obsession in Sweden, but according to the WHO, processed meats such as those used to make the sausages can lead to more serious health risks than previously thought.
The organisation's latest report suggests that having just 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon or one hot dog – increases the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
It is the first time that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that there is “sufficient evidence” to make the link.
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Dr Kurt Straif, Head of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) Monographs Programme said in a statement following the report's release on Monday.
“In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance,” he added.
The hot dog is a popular Swedish snack. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
The IARC Working Group considered more than 800 studies that investigated associations of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets.
It concluded that there was also “limited evidence” to suggest that the consumption of red meat could cause colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer, but said that more research needed to be done in this area.
Sweden's National Food Agency (NFA) has promised to analyse the findings in detail, before deciding whether or not to adjust current national advice on eating processed meat.
“We will have to look at the report more carefully, to see if there is any new evidence,” Rickard Bjerselius, a toxicologist at NFA told The Local.
He said that the government-funded body already suggests that Swedes should not consume more than 500g of red meat a week, of which only a “small proportion” should be processed.
“Hot dog meat, bacon, ham, salami and pate all count as processed meats, but meatballs are red meat,” he explained.
“I think people in general should be aware of the increased risks when you eat too much of these things.”