Newspaper article International New York Times

Britons like Their Platters of Food Risks

Newspaper article International New York Times

Britons like Their Platters of Food Risks

Article excerpt

In the home of the full English breakfast, health warnings seem to inspire irreverence and potential denial.

It has been a staple for as long as anyone can remember at bed- and-breakfast establishments and greasy spoon cafes, offered alike to travelers in five-star hotels and bleary-eyed passengers at the tail end of overnight flights to London.

It is known as the "full English" -- a combination of bacon, sausage and egg, with ad hoc additions of baked beans, black pudding, cooked tomato, mushrooms, fried bread, hash browns, splotches of spicy brown sauce, ketchup, buttered toast and dollops of marmalade. And a nice cup of sweet, milky tea, of course.

The miracle, apparently, is that so many have survived its flawed allure for so long.

A report this week by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer suggested that processed meats like sausages belong in the same nominal category of carcinogens as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco, albeit with much lower levels of hazard.

The findings were global, but they struck a particular resonance in Britain, where the battle between health and indulgence is uneven at best, and often postponed for another day.

This is a land where prime-time television accords equal prominence to boot-camp tests of ripped physical prowess and belly- bulging cooking shows; where gym memberships compete for attention with the siren call at lunchtime from countless outlets selling sandwiches slathered in mayo.

Processed meat itself has been the butt of humor since a Monty Python sketch in 1970 that revolved around Spam, the canned meat that gave its prewar name to a newer generation's unsolicited email.

"Killer in the kitchen," The Sun, a tabloid, proclaimed this week in a front-page headline above a photograph of a sausage. "Banger out of order."

Health warnings seem only to inspire irreverence and potential denial in scofflaws.

"I drink heavily, I smoke 20 a day," a reader identified as MartinArd wrote on The Guardian's website, one of more than 4,000 postings in response to coverage of the W. …

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