Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 26, 2015

Contact: Stephanie Feldstein, (734) 395-0770,

Bacon, Ham, Sausage May Be Labeled as Carcinogens in California

New World Health Organization Classification Likely to
Trigger Warning Labeling for Processed Meats, Red Meat in California

OAKLAND, Calif. — The World Health Organization today classified the consumption of processed meats like bacon, ham and sausage as carcinogenic to humans, and red meat as probably carcinogenic. Under California’s Proposition 65, today’s decision should trigger a similar classification in California, requiring these meats sold throughout the state to include a label warning that the products are known to the state of California to cause cancer.

“The World Health Organization has put these meats in the same category as cigarettes in terms of the death and danger they deliver,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now, California must follow suit with public health warnings on the label. And it’s no surprise: the science has been clear that these meats are bad for people, not to mention for wildlife and the planet.”

The new report by a working group of 22 experts from 10 countries places processed meat in the highest category of agents classified as “carcinogenic to humans,” alongside cigarettes, alcohol and asbestos. Red meat is classified in the second-highest category of “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

In addition to these products being hazardous to human health, processed and red meat production is also one of the leading hazards to the environment as a massive contributor to climate change, water pollution and habitat loss of threatened and endangered species.

Under Title 27 California Code of Regulations section 25904, a chemical or substance classified by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as carcinogenic to humans must be included on the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer. California businesses are required to provide a “clear and reasonable” warning before knowingly or intentionally exposing anyone to chemicals or substances on this list, which could mean product labels and warning signs where processed and red meats are sold or served throughout the state.

Read the International Agency for Research on Cancer's announcement here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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