This morning, Today Programme allowed the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) to peddle the link between processed meat, sausages, bacon, salami and ham, and colorectal cancer. You can listen to the interview here.
Over a year ago, the Daily Telegraph reported it with this a scary headline " sausage a day can increase bowel cancer risk"
This morning, Lisa Cooney, the head of education at the WCRF, asserted " there is convincing scientific evidence linking the consumption of processed meat with an increased risk of bowel cancer". The hapless Evan Davis accepted this assertion and moved on.
Ok, there's a lot of statistics in there, but my O level maths didn't let me down.
Colquhoun's piece starts with this challenge to the WCRF report.
..... there has never been a randomised trial to test the
carcinogenicity of bacon, so it seems reasonable to ask how strong is
the evidence that you shouldn’t eat it? It turns out to be
He then asks the relevant question. Is there a causal link between the consumption of processed meat and colorectal cancer? If there is no such link, then why are the WCRF telling us not to eat bacon and sausages?
In the case of sausages and bacon, suppose that there is a correlation
between eating them and developing colorectal cancer. How do we know
that it was eating the bacon that caused the cancer – that the
relationship is causal? The answer is that there is no way to be sure
if we have simply observed the association. It could always be that
the sort of people who eat bacon are also the sort of people who get
colorectal cancer. But the question of causality is absolutely
crucial, because if it is not causal, then stopping eating bacon won’t
reduce your risk of cancer. The recommendation to avoid all processed
meat in the WCRF report (2007) is sensible only if the relationship is causal. Barker Bausell said
[Page39] “But why should non scientists care one iota about
something as esoteric as causal inference? I believe that the answer to
this question is because the making of causal inferences is part of our
job description as Homo Sapiens.”
That should be the mantra of every health journalist, and every newspaper reader.
Colquhoun then goes on to examine in detail the studies relied on by the WCRF paper and concludes.
After all this, we can return to the original question. Do sausages or
bacon give you colorectal cancer? The answer, sadly, is that nobody
really knows. I do know that, on the basis of the evidence, it seems to
me to be an exaggeration to assert that “The evidence is convincing
that processed meat is a cause of bowel cancer”.
Sometimes I think we should say “I don’t know” rather more often.
This is the last of our parsnip crop from Plot#12. It's a rather odd shape.
The cause of the bi- or even tri-furcation is when the growing root meets an obstruction in the soil. It is usually a stone that causes the root to spread. Anyway I don't suppose any of the guests at Mr and Mrs Rambler's for Christmas dinner will be too bothered.
Yesterday, we removed the old runner bean plants from Plot #12. The roots were left in the soil to enable the nitrogen fixing virus in the root nodules to fertilise the soil. We thought we'd managed to collect most of the beans, but there were a few left. The beans inside the pods were almost unrecognisable but rather beautiful.
For one who has never knowingly tucked into any of Bernard Matthew's poultry products, I do find some of the grumbling about the £600,000.00 pay-out to compensate their loss of marketable turkeys- confusing. The principle behind the compensation scheme is straight forward. It encourages reporting of dangerous infectious diseases in our livestock. That enables the government to take steps to prevent the infection from spreading. Payments are made under Section 32 of the Animal Health Act 1981 whenever Ministers require the slaughter of animals for public or animal health reasons. That is exactly what happened in this case. The Act does not appear to allow any deduction for contributory negligence. The remedy in that case must lie exclusively in prosecuting any alleged offender under the appropriate animal health regulations. Yesterday's report, prepared by the National Emergency Epidemiology Group, was unable to show any evidence as to how the H5N1 strain of bird flu arrived at Bernard Matthew's operation. That meant any prosecution was out of the question. Compensation would have to be paid. There is an argument about whether in these circumstances the entire compensation package should fall on the taxpayer, but I do not remember the same level of grumbling when the government doled out large amounts of taxpayers money to compensate farmers for their livestock losses as a result of Foot and Mouth Disease. There's been much nonsense written and talked about the £600,000 pay-out but the comment by Lib Dem spokesman, Chris Huhne, takes the prize. And you can imagine he's up against some stiff competition.
When interviewed last night about the failure to prosecute Matthews, he claimed they should be in the dock for "their sloppiness". If sloppiness was a criterion for prosecution, rather than silly things like evidence, most of us including Mr Huhne, would be in the dock.
Dr. Birthday seems to visit me earlier each year. Yesterday was his 58th visit! As a celebration, I wanted to sample some of Texas' finest food. Having spent half an hour looking here I decided to forgo the French restaurants with their plates of escargots and plump instead for a real Texican barbecue. This place came highly recommended. Much against my better judgement, assisted by a glass of Shiners' beer, I chose the "Rib King Platter" Six beef ribs cooked in barbecue sauce, with beans, potato salad and coleslaw. You can read the menu here (pdf).
Genuinely no-one really expected what arrived. The plate was the size of a serving plate large enough to take a christmas turkey-with the roast spuds. It was so large that it could not fit longways in front of me. When it arrived, one of my friends started singing "The Flintstones" theme. And, yes it did remind me of those brontosaurus ribs that were so weighty they tipped over Fred's car at the drive-through!
There was no way I was ever going to finish the monster, but I was told I could take the uneaten portion home for later consumption. I managed three of the ribs, and even that gave me a wonderful feeling of satisfaction. I'm not one of those who take their cameras to restaurants, so I'm afraid I can't give you an impression of the size of the six ribs, plate and salads, but did photograph the 50% I took home, that I jokingly suggested I would eat with a poached egg garnish for breakfast.
50% of a County Line King Rib Platter-Rambler's Breakfast!
I can recall nowhere in Italy, from the Veneto to Sicily, from Lazio to Puglia, where they serve what the English call "Spaghetti Bolognese". And by English spag bol, I mean a sauce made from copious amounts of tomatoes boiled with beef mince and a selection of herbs. The concoction in most recipe books contains just too many tomatoes. The best recipe for ragù alla bolognese , I nicked from the Sunday Times "Taste of Italy" supplement some years ago. The aroma of the complete sauce is wafting up the stairs as I write this. I've doubled up the ingredients. The sauce freezes well and can be used to fill cannelloni or the base sauce for a lasagne al forno
Ragù alla bolognese 100g butter 4 tbsp. olive oil 2 medium onions 2 medium carrots 2 sticks of celery 150g pancetta 400g minced pork or beef 400g minced veal 400ml dry red wine salt and pepper 8 tbsp tomato purée small amounts of water/meat stock and cream. The original Sunday Times recipe suggests the carrot, onion, celery and pancetta are " finely chopped". Chopping any vegetable "finely" is a skilled operation. It's must easier and the results are superior if you blitz all these ingredients in a Magimix. It is easier to use the mini mixer for the pancetta.
Heat the butter and oil in a deep pan and add the vegetables and fry them until they soften and are slightly brown. Because the vegetables are finely chopped this will take only a couple of minutes. Add the pancetta and meat and fry until the meat changes colour. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates fully. Add the seasoning, tomato purée and a little water/stock. Cook slowly- and that's the trick-stirring occasionally adding more water/stock if necessary. Set the timer for 90 minutes. And don't spoil this by using spaghetti! The sauce clings to tagliatelle much better. Add a small amount of cream and mix well, before adding to the pasta