SYDNEY—The classic Aussie sausage sanger and much-loved bacon and egg fry-up are under threat from a new global cancer report urging people to avoid processed meats completely.
Salami, ham, bacon, corned beef and sausages all come under fire in the largest study yet into the links between lifestyle and disease.
Both fresh red meat and preserved meats performed poorly, with eminent researchers saying they were "convincing or probable causes of some cancers", especially colorectal cancer.
But the latter, with their high salt and preservative content, came out worst off, with a recommendation they should be "avoided".
Obesity, smoking and alcohol topped the list of cancer triggers in the World Cancer Research Fund report. But it is the unexpected processed meat recommendation that is fuelling the most discussion among dieticians divided on whether Australia's passion for barbecued snags and salami sandwiches must end.
Top nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton said it was time the nation had this dietary wake-up call.
"These meats are a staple part of the Australian diet, especially the bacon and the deli meats, but they really shouldn't be," Dr Stanton said.
"Parents will regularly fix their kids salami sandwiches without considering the extra salt and preservative and all that goes with it.
"They're not like fresh meat and they simply shouldn't be eaten like this. Save them for your birthday, if that."
But Peter Clifton, director of nutrition at the CSIRO and co-author of the protein-rich total wellbeing diet, said the recommendation was "over the top".
While processed meats had a higher cancer risk than fresh red meat, people ate them in much smaller quantities, especially in Australia, Dr Clifton said.
"To limit it is fine. But to warn people to avoid it altogether implies it's toxic and I don't think the data supports that."
The project reviewed 7,000 studies conducted over 40 years and made 10 recommendations, the strongest of which urges people to stay trim.
They should also avoid alcohol and soft drinks, exercise vigorously for 30 minutes a day, breastfeed their babies, maximise fruit and vegetables and not bother with vitamin supplements.
Red meat should be limited to 500 grams a week, slightly above current Australian consumption.
Processed meats, also including pastrami, frankfurters and patties in fast food hamburgers, were considered problematic due to levels of salt and preservatives like nitrites and nitrates.
Meat and Livestock Australia said it supported "limited" consumption of processed meats and noted that Australians ate less than half the amount consumed by Europeans.