Germany's answer to WHO study: Don't be scared of sausages

BERLIN - Sausages, like sunshine, are beneficial in moderation, Germany's agriculture minister said on Tuesday, after a World Health Organisation (WHO) report warned that eating processed meats can cause cancer.

The report, which classified processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans" on its group one list along with tobacco and asbestos, drew attention in Germany, the world's highest consumer of such products.

"No one should be afraid if they eat a bratwurst (sausage) every now and then," Christian Schmidt, minister for food and agriculture, said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"People are being wrongly unsettled when eating meat is put on the same level as asbestos or tobacco."

Experts concluded in the WHO study that eating processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages and bacon can cause colorectal cancer in humans, and red meat is also a likely cause of the disease.

Schmidt likened sausages to sunshine, which he said had beneficial effects if not taken to excess. "It always depends on the amount. Too much is unhealthy," he said.

Germans eat more processed meat, 17.2 kg each per year, than any other nation but could give more attention to meat substitutes in future following the WHO report, said analysts Euromonitor International.

"German consumers are expected to keep their taste for meat, but with ongoing research and development, meat substitutes are expected to further improve and become more varied both in taste and texture," said Euromonitor International analyst Wiebke Schoon.

"This means they may certainly turn out to become a valid alternative for consumers, who, whatever their reasons, want to reduce their meat consumption in the long term."