I noticed several people sharing stories on Facebook over the last day with the title, “Processed Meats Declared Too Dangerous for Human Consumption”. I was intrigued right from the first one, but when I saw that the url was institutefornaturalhealing.com, I moved on. It’s not that I have anything against that site, but I do know that there are a lot of fringe sites on the interweb that tend to publish unsubstantiated items. I had no idea if that site was one of them, but I do know that a story of that magnitude would make it to the mainstream media if it was true. Today, after seeing the title for the 4th time, I decided to bite, and headed to dreamhealer.wordpress.com for the details.
The article was compelling, and even sounded reasonable, but I knew immediately that it wasn’t true. How? No references. The article mentions references, including the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), and includes specific numerical data in their statements. I can certainly understand why people would read that and be convinced. But all I could think was: if this is true, why not reference the source?
So I decided to verify it myself, and Googled World Cancer Research Fund. They are, after all, the primary source for this “news”. It took less than a minute from the time I opted to do my own due diligence to the time I found this on the WCRF website (note that I am actually including a link to the site I am quoting):
“We are aware of a story circulating social media and blog sites claiming to represent World Cancer Research Fund International’s position on processed meat. We had no involvement in the production of this article.”
Now, this isn’t to say that we should assume processed meats are good for us, or that the WCRF is in favour of eating processed meats (they aren’t). In fact please do yourself a favour and read the full WCRF stance on processed meats (it’s not long).
But please, everyone who shared or retweeted this “story”: be aware of the signs that an article is false and do your own due diligence before you share misinformation. Choose your own standard for when due diligence is needed, or feel free to borrow mine (which is really as simple as what I noted above); and remember that it usually doesn’t take long. I found out the truth in less than 1 minute.
The internet provides the amazing opportunity for everyone to have a soapbox, and for everyone to be part of the media. Please remember that by becoming our own publishers (blogging or even sharing), we take on a responsibility to try to ensure we are only spreading truth.
Any other “cool but not actually true” stories that went around the webs?
Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is an engineer turned personal trainer who doesn’t care for the spreading of misinformation
Thanks Nadine. That is a great article! It’s too bad the others chose to sensationalize, because the truth is actually quite compelling.
Thanks Elsbeth! I actually didn’t come across the story you mention in your blog, but read an article earlier this week in the “Sydney Morning Herald” that deals with the same topic: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/blogs/chew-on-this/why-processed-meat-is-on-the-nose-20130520-2jvpx.html
I believe this one is less sensational and also takes a more “cautious” route in terms of definitely categorizing processed meats as bad and recommending that they all be removed from our diets.