11:53:41 pm on
Sunday 14 Jul 2024

David Simmonds

Bacon, as well as processed meat and sausages, is a carcinogen, right up there with tobacco and asbestos. Red meat is a “possible” carcinogen. At least if you believe the findings of a committee of that pipsqueak outfit known as the World Health Organization (WHO), which told us a can of pop a day was too much sugar to ingest safely.

How much bacon is too much bacon?

At what point does the carcinogenic effect kick in? Well, to reduce it to bacon strips, two a day will increase the risk of getting colorectal cancer by 18 per cent, whatever that means. According to a 2011 survey, American consumption of bacon averages less than one strip per person per day.

If everyone is average and we Canadians consume like Americans, we can collectively still double our consumption before the risk increases. Even so, nobody enjoys the prospect of munching on a carcinogen however good it tastes and however low the risk. The WHO report is not good news for bacon.

The German government has already leapt to the defence of the sausage. “No one should be afraid if they eat a bratwurst every now and then,” said the German minister for food and agriculture in response to the WHO report. “It always depends on the amount. Too much is unhealthy.”

The Italians are defending their prosciutto.

The Coldiretti Meat Processors Association has stated “no to meat terrorism. The Italian stuff is the healthiest,” noting that Italians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

In Canada, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Canadian Meat Council have leaped to the defence of meat consumption generally. The latter notes the WHO did not “balance its verdict by taking into account either the benefits of meat or the substantive implications of removing meat from the diet.” For its part, Health Canada said it intends to review the WHO report and update its guidelines if necessary. Health Canada noted it encourages “smaller amounts of meat, more meat alternatives and a greater emphasis on vegetables, fruit and whole grain foods.”

Where are the passionate voices in defence of our iconic Canadian back bacon? Where are today’s Bob and Doug McKenzie, who in between beer burps were global ambassadors for a product that makes Canadian hearts flutter? If Germany can defend bratwurst, surely Canada can stand up and defend bacon.

In a way, our politicians are lucky the bacon issue did not explode in time to have an effect on our election. Would Justin Trudeau have said that “real change” should incorporate reductions in bacon consumption? Would he have stated that “sunny ways” should include a daily dose of eggs sunny side up with at least 2.25 strips of back bacon?

Would Thomas Mulcair have fared better had he been able to demonstrate his government would endorse the WHO report, without running a deficit? Would Stephen Harper, do you remember him, have pulled off a victory if he had drawn a line in the sand and told Canadians only he and his Government could protect Canadians against the evil spectre of vegetarianism or reduced meat consumption?

One can only speculate what American politicians will do when pressed to take a stand on the WHO report. Donald Trump might well say that his second priority, after building a wall across the Mexican border, will be to pass a law stating that processed meat is not carcinogenic and slapping punitive tariffs on imported tofu products. Hillary Rodham Clinton may commission a poll to determine where she stands on the issue and comment, in the interim, that the report confirms everything she has ever suspected about ‘red meat’ republicans.

Is Wendy's Baconater in danger?

Then there are companies with a big stake in the bacon business to consider. Take Wendy’s, its Baconator sandwich, made for “discerning carnivores,” contains not just a half pound of meat, but also, gasp, six strips of fresh cooked, never microwaved, thick cut, Applewood smoked bacon. I don’t imagine that Wendy’s is all that thrilled to rest its future on a sandwich that, in terms of bacon, alone, never mind the red meat component, might only be eaten once every three days or less. The Canadian Football League (CFL), of which the Baconator is the official hamburger, must be shaking in its 110-yard boots.

If the WHO report takes hold, what will bacon addicts do if they can’t eat the stuff, at least in public? Must they buy spray cans of ‘eau de back bacon’ to get their fix? Now that legalization of marijuana is in the cards, will organized crime move into the bacon market? Let’s hope not: that would be one of its rasher decisions.


Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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