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'Don't make rash decisions about eating bacon' is the message as ban backlash begins in earnest in Wales.

Byline: By Darren Devine Western Mail

It's a smell tempting enough to get nearly anyone out of bed on even the most miserable of mornings. The aroma of crispy bacon wafting up the stairs is perhaps topped in its mouth-wateringness only by the experience of actually tucking into a couple of rashers of the stuff, tucked inside thick doorstops of bread and coated liberally in sauce - red or brown. It's a snack regarded as both a top hangover cure and the ideal start to a busy day, but health chiefs this week threatened the future of one of the nation's favourite meals when they warned that people should cut out processed meats like bacon because of the associated risk of developing cancer. But no sooner had the message emerged than the backlash against the bacon ban began. Everyone from pig farmers to chefs yesterday urged people to keep eating the pig product - provided it was in safe quantities.

Farmer Helen Tongue said she was disappointed by the tough line taken on meat in the research by the World Cancer Research Fund.

Mrs Tongue, who farms near Chepstow, believes eating processed meat as part of a balanced diet needn't damage our health.

Nutritionist Dr Joanne Lunn said small amounts of processed meats are okay, provided we take regular exercise and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

And Peter Jackson, chef and chairman of the Welsh Culinary Association, said the healthy-eating movement is overlooking the benefits of meat.

Mrs Tongue, who has around 130 pigs on Lowernex farm, in Devauden, said, "I'm saddened by this research because if you listened to what they're saying we might as well stay in bed and not eat anything.

"I thought it was a little bit over the top. I think you've got to remember about a balanced diet and what meat can do in a balanced diet."

Mrs Tongue, who has two grown-up children, added "It's quite horrendous to publish all the things we can't eat. I'm a pig farmer and a housewife and a mother and all my family will continue to eat as they have done over the years.

"There's a lot of iron and protein in meat and my kids couldn't have survived without it.

"Vegetarians struggle with getting enough iron in their diet."

The research defines processed meats as those "preserved by smoking, curing, salting or the addition of chemical preservatives".

Mrs Tongue, 50, said that although her bacon is cured and salted it is not as heavily processed as much of the meat sold at supermarkets.

"The way we do hams nowadays is disgraceful. My ham is straight from my pigs and into the pots and cooked.

"The amount of water and salt put into ham that you buy in the shops is frightening."

Mr Jackson, who runs the four-star country house hotel Maes-y-Neuadd, near Harlech, said there is too much scaremongering around food.

"It's a balanced diet you need. You need salt, protein, carbohydrates and vitamin in your diet.

"There's a food scare near enough every week now, but it's about being able to understand food."

As well as advising us to cut out processed meats the study also recommended we reduce our alcohol intake, avoid sugary drinks, exercise daily and breast feed children.

Dr Lunn, of the British Nutrition Foundation, said it's more important to look at your diet as a whole than single out particular items to avoid altogether. She said, "Small amounts of any type of food are okay provided you exercise and keep a healthy weight. "Other foods can reduce the risk, like fruit and vegetables. "It's more important to look at your entire diet over the course of a day, or a month or a week rather than individual foods.": How to cook the tastiest rasher:According to Peter Jackson, the chair of the Welsh Culinary Association, its best to cook your bacon by grilling it quickly, with the heat turned up as high as possible. He explained, This seals in all the flavours and juices. If you do it slowly, all the liquid comes out and toughens the meat. Its also the healthiest way, because youve not added anything to it to cook it.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 2, 2007
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