Processed meat such as bacon and ham is causing 6,600 cancer cases a year, scientists warn.
They say the meat industry will be dealt a “reputational blow” similar to that of tobacco firms if it fails to take action.
Experts led by Professor Chris Elliot, a former UK government scientist, claim “not enough is being done” to raise awareness about harmful nitrites used to cure meats and maintain its colour.
There is growing evidence that when eaten, these nitrites produce cancer-causing agents called carcinogens.
The scientists have analysed existing figures from the World Health Organisation showing processed meats containing nitrites cause 6,600 bowel cancer cases in the UK each year.
This is four times the number of fatalities on British roads and the experts urge the Government to take action to remove nitrites from foods.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, a consultant at Frimley Park Hospitals in Surrey in the UK, said: “Nitrites are used to cure bacon and ham, but when the meat is cooked and ingested by humans they create nitrosamines [which] are carcinogenic. The meat industry must act fast, act now.”
* Daily Mail