Fear not, eat bratwurst, says German food minister

Brats (in short for bratwursts) are coarse sausages, seasoned with herbs and stuffed into crusty baguettes.
Brats (in short for bratwursts) are coarse sausages, seasoned with herbs and stuffed into crusty baguettes. PHOTO: GERMAN CLUB

BERLIN (AFP) - Germany's food and agriculture minister said Tuesday that people should not be afraid of biting into a grilled bratwurst despite the World Health Organisation's (WHO) warning that sausages and ham cause cancer.

"No one should be afraid when eating a bratwurst," said Christian Schmidt.

"As with everything, what counts is the quantity: too much of something is always bad for health," he said in a statement.

"We worry people unnecessarily if we put meat in the same category as asbestos or tobacco," he added.

His Austrian counterpart, Andrae Rupprechter, echoed the sentiment, calling the WHO report "a farce".

"Placing ham on the same level as asbestos is outrageous nonsense and only serves to unsettle people," he wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. "There's no doubt for me: Austria's sausage is and remains the best."

To underline his point, Rupprechter posted a picture of himself about to tuck into a huge platter of cold cuts with a grin on his face.

Based on a review of 800 studies from around the world, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said it found "sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer".

For unprocessed red meat - beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse or goat, the review found "strong" evidence of a link, but not convincing enough to place it in the group of confirmed cancer-causing agents which includes tobacco smoke, asbestos, and now also salami.

Germany is a key meat producing nation, generating 8.8 million tonnes in 2013, including more than 5.0 million tonnes of pork and 1.4 million tonnes of poultry.

Although sausages and salami figure regularly in German meals, meat consumption in the country has actually fallen in recent years. Each inhabitant ate 60.3 kilogrammes of meat in 2013, down from 61.3 kg in 2010.

Meanwhile, Austrians devoured a whopping 65.3 kg of meat in 2013.