Yes, bacon really is killing us

The long read: Decades worth of research proves that chemicals used to make bacon do cause cancer. So how did the meat industry convince us it was safe?

There was a little cafe I used to go to that did the best bacon sandwiches. They came in a soft and pillowy white bap. The bacon, thick-cut from a local butcher, was midway between crispy and chewy. Ketchup and HP sauce were served in miniature jars with the sandwich, so you could dab on the exact amount you liked. That was all there was to it: just bread and bacon and sauce. Eating one of these sandwiches, as I did every few weeks, with a cup of strong coffee, felt like an uncomplicated pleasure.

And then, all of a sudden, the bacon sandwich stopped being quite so comforting. For a few weeks in October 2015, half the people I knew were talking about the news that eating bacon was now a proven cause of cancer. You couldnt miss the story: it was splashed large in every newspaper and all over the web. As one journalist wrote in Wired, Perhaps no two words together are more likely to set the internet aflame than BACON and CANCER. The BBC website announced, matter-of-factly, that Processed meats do cause cancer, while the Sun went with Banger out of Order and Killer in the Kitchen.

The source of the story was an announcement from the World Health Organization that processed meats were now classified as a group 1 carcinogen, meaning scientists were certain that there was sufficient evidence that they caused cancer, particularly colon cancer. The warning applied not just to British bacon but to Italian salami, Spanish chorizo, German bratwurst and myriad other foods.

Health scares are ten-a-penny, but this one was very hard to ignore. The WHO announcement came on advice from 22 cancer experts from 10 countries, who reviewed more than 400 studies on processed meat covering epidemiological data from hundreds of thousands of people. It was now possible to say that eat less processed meat, much like eat more vegetables, had become one of the very few absolutely incontrovertible pieces of evidence-based diet advice not simply another high-profile nutrition fad. As every news report highlighted, processed meat was now in a group of 120 proven carcinogens, alongside alcohol, asbestos and tobacco leading to a great many headlines blaring that bacon was as deadly as smoking.

The WHO advised that consuming 50g of processed meat a day equivalent to just a couple of rashers of bacon or one hotdog would raise the risk of getting bowel cancer by 18% over a lifetime. (Eating larger amounts raises your risk more.) Learning that your own risk of cancer has increased from something like 5% to something like 6% may not be frightening enough to put you off bacon sandwiches for ever. But learning that consumption of processed meat causes an additional 34,000 worldwide cancer deaths a year is much more chilling. According to Cancer Research UK, if no one ate processed or red meat in Britain, there would be 8,800 fewer cases of cancer. (That is four times the number of people killed annually on Britains roads.)

The news felt especially shocking because both ham and bacon are quintessentially British foods. Nearly a quarter of the adult population in Britain eats a ham sandwich for lunch on any given day, according to data from 2012 gathered by researchers Luke Yates and Alan Warde. To many consumers, bacon is not just a food; it is a repository of childhood memories, a totem of home. Surveys indicate that the smell of frying bacon is one of our favourite scents in the UK, along with cut grass and fresh bread. To be told that bacon had given millions of people cancer was a bit like finding out your granny had been secretly sprinkling arsenic on your morning toast.

Vegetarians might point out that the bacon sandwich should never have been seen as comforting. It is certainly no comfort for the pigs, most of whom are kept in squalid, cramped conditions. But for the rest of us, it was alarming to be told that these beloved foods might be contributing to thousands of needless human deaths. In the weeks following news of the WHO report, sales of bacon and sausages fell dramatically. British supermarkets reported a 3m drop in sales in just a fortnight. (It was very detrimental, said Kirsty Adams, the product developer for meat at Marks and Spencer.)

But just when it looked as if this may be #Bacongeddon (one of many agonised bacon-related hashtags trending in October 2015), a second wave of stories flooded in. Their message was: panic over. For one thing, the analogy between bacon and smoking was misleading. Smoking tobacco and eating processed meat are both dangerous, but not on the same scale. To put it in context, around 86% of lung cancers are linked to smoking, whereas it seems that just 21% of bowel cancers can be attributed to eating processed or red meat. A few weeks after publishing the report, the WHO issued a clarification insisting it was not telling consumers to stop eating processed meat.

Meanwhile, the meat industry was busily insisting that there was nothing to see here. The North American Meat Institute, an industry lobby group, called the report dramatic and alarmist overreach. A whole tranche of articles insisted in a commonsense tone that it would be premature and foolish to ditch our meaty fry-ups just because of a little cancer scare.

Nearly three years on, it feels like business as usual for processed meats. Many of us seem to have got over our initial sense of alarm. Sales of bacon in the UK are buoyant, having risen 5% in the two years up to mid-2016. When I interviewed a product developer for Sainsburys supermarket last year, she said that one of the quickest ways to get British consumers to try a new product now was to add chorizo to it.

And yet the evidence linking bacon to cancer is stronger than ever. In January, a new large-scale study using data from 262,195 British women suggested that consuming just 9g of bacon a day less than a rasher could significantly raise the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. The studys lead author, Jill Pell from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University, told me that while it can be counterproductive to push for total abstinence, the scientific evidence suggests it would be misleading for health authorities to set any safe dose for processed meat other than zero.

The real scandal of bacon, however, is that it didnt have to be anything like so damaging to our health. The part of the story we havent been told including by the WHO is that there were always other ways to manufacture these products that would make them significantly less carcinogenic. The fact that this is so little known is tribute to the power of the meat industry, which has for the past 40 years been engaged in a campaign of cover-ups and misdirection to rival the dirty tricks of Big Tobacco.

How do you choose a pack of bacon in a shop, assuming you are a meat eater? First, you opt for either the crispy fat of streaky or the leanness of back. Then you decide between smoked or unsmoked each version has its passionate defenders (I am of the unsmoked persuasion). Maybe you seek out a packet made from free-range or organic meat, or maybe your budget is squeezed and you search for any bacon on special offer. Either way, before you put the pack in your basket, you have one last look, to check if the meat is pink enough.

Since we eat with our eyes, the main way we judge the quality of cured meats is pinkness. Yet it is this very colour that we should be suspicious of, as the French journalist Guillaume Coudray explains in a book published in France last year called Cochonneries, a word that means both piggeries and rubbish or junk food. The subtitle is How Charcuterie Became a Poison. Cochonneries reads like a crime novel, in which the processed meat industry is the perpetrator and ordinary consumers are the victims.

The pinkness of bacon or cooked ham, or salami is a sign that it has been treated with chemicals, more specifically with nitrates and nitrites. It is the use of these chemicals that is widely believed to be the reason why processed meat is much more carcinogenic than unprocessed meat. Coudray argues that we should speak not of processed meat but nitro-meat.

Prosciutto di Parma has been produced without nitrates since 1993. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Pure insane crazy madness is how Coudray described the continuing use of nitrates and nitrites in processed meats, in an email to me. The madness, in his view, is that it is possible to make bacon and ham in ways that would be less carcinogenic. The most basic way to cure any meat is to salt it either with a dry salt rub or a wet brine and to wait for time to do the rest. Coudray notes that ham and bacon manufacturers claim this old-fashioned way of curing isnt safe. But the real reason they reject it is cost: it takes much longer for processed meats to develop their flavour this way, which cuts into profits.

There is much confusion about what processed meat actually means, a confusion encouraged by the bacon industry, which benefits from us thinking there is no difference between a freshly minced lamb kofta and a pizza smothered in nitrate-cured pepperoni. Technically, processed meat means pork or beef that has been salted and cured, with or without smoking. A fresh pound of beef mince isnt processed. A hard stick of cured salami is.

The health risk of bacon is largely to do with two food additives: potassium nitrate (also known as saltpetre) and sodium nitrite. It is these that give salamis, bacons and cooked hams their alluring pink colour. Saltpetre sometimes called sal prunella has been used in some recipes for salted meats since ancient times. As Jane Grigson explains in Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, saltpetre was traditionally used when brining hams to give them an attractive rosy appearance when otherwise it would be a murky greyish brown.

In earlier centuries, bacon-makers who used saltpetre did not understand that it converts to nitrite as the meat cures. It is this nitrite that allows the bacteria responsible for cured flavour to emerge quicker, by inhibiting the growth of other bacteria. But in the early 20th century, the meat industry found that the production of cured meats could be streamlined by adding sodium nitrite to the pork in pure form. In trade journals of the 1960s, the firms who sold nitrite powders to ham-makers spoke quite openly about how the main advantage was to increase profit margins by speeding up production. One French brand of sodium nitrite from the 60s was called Vitorose or quick-pink.

Nitro-chemicals have been less of a boon to consumers. In and of themselves, these chemicals are not carcinogenic. After all, nitrate is naturally present in many green vegetables, including celery and spinach, something that bacon manufacturers often jubilantly point out. As one British bacon-maker told me, Theres nitrate in lettuce and no one is telling us not to eat that!

But something different happens when nitrates are used in meat processing. When nitrates interact with certain components in red meat (haem iron, amines and amides), they form N-nitroso compounds, which cause cancer. The best known of these compounds is nitrosamine. This, as Guillaume Coudray explained to me in an email, is known to be carcinogenic even at a very low dose. Any time someone eats bacon, ham or other processed meat, their gut receives a dose of nitrosamines, which damage the cells in the lining of the bowel, and can lead to cancer.

You would not know it from the way bacon is sold, but scientists have known nitrosamines are carcinogenic for a very long time. More than 60 years ago, in 1956, two British researchers called Peter Magee and John Barnes found that when rats were fed dimethyl nitrosamine, they developed malignant liver tumours. By the 1970s, animal studies showed that small, repeated doses of nitrosamines and nitrosamides exactly the kind of regular dose a person might have when eating a daily breakfast of bacon were found to cause tumours in many organs including the liver, stomach, oesophagus, intestines, bladder, brain, lungs and kidneys.

Just because something is a carcinogen in rats and other mammals does not mean it will cause cancer in humans, but as far back as 1976, cancer scientist William Lijinsky argued that we must assume that these N-nitroso compounds found in meats such as bacon were also carcinogens for man. In the years since, researchers have gathered a massive body of evidence to lend weight to that assumption. In 1994, to take just one paper among hundreds on nitrosamines and cancer, two American epidemiologists found that eating hotdogs one or more times a week was associated with higher rates of childhood brain cancer, particularly for children who also had few vitamins in their diets.

In 1993, Parma ham producers in Italy made a collective decision to remove nitrates from their products and revert to using only salt, as in the old days. For the past 25 years, no nitrates or nitrites have been used in any Prosciutto di Parma. Even without nitrate or nitrite, the Parma ham stays a deep rosy-pink colour. We now know that the colour in Parma ham is totally harmless, a result of the enzyme reactions during the hams 18-month ageing process.

Slow-cured, nitrate-free, artisan hams are one thing, but what about mass-market meats? Eighteen months would be a long time to wait on hotdogs, as the food science expert Harold McGee comments. But there have always been recipes for nitrate-free bacon using nothing but salt and herbs. John Gower of Quiet Waters Farm, a pork producer who advises many British manufacturers of cured meats, confirms that nitrate is not a necessary ingredient in bacon: Its generally accepted that solid muscle products, as opposed to chopped meat products like salami, dont require the addition of nitrate for safety reasons.

Bacon is proof, if it were needed, that we cling to old comforts long after they have been proven harmful. The attachment of producers to nitrates in bacon is mostly cultural, says Gower. Bacon cured by traditional methods without nitrates and nitrites will lack what Gower calls that hard-to-define tang, that delicious almost metallic taste that makes bacon taste of bacon to British consumers. Bacon without nitrates, says Gower, is nothing but salt pork.

Given the harm of nitro-meat has been known for so long, the obvious question is why more has not been done to protect us from it. Corinna Hawkes, a professor of Food Policy at City University in London, has been predicting for years that processed meats will be the next sugar a food so harmful that there will be demands for government agencies to step in and protect us. Some day soon, Hawkes believes, consumers will finally wake up to the clear links between cancer and processed meat and say Why didnt someone tell me about this?

The most amazing thing about the bacon panic of 2015 was that it took so long for official public health advice to turn against processed meat. It could have happened 40 years earlier. The only time that the processed meat industry has looked seriously vulnerable was during the 1970s, a decade that saw the so-called war on nitrates in the US. In an era of Ralph Nader-style consumer activism, there was a gathering mood in favour of protecting shoppers against bacon which one prominent public health scientist called the most dangerous food in the supermarket. In 1973, Leo Freedman, the chief toxicologist of the US Food and Drug Administration, confirmed to the New York Times that nitrosamines are a carcinogen for humans although he also mentioned that he liked bacon as well as anybody.

The US meat industry realised it had to act fast to protect bacon against the cancer charge. The first attempts to fight back were simply to ridicule the scientists for over-reacting. In a 1975 article titled Factual look at bacon scare, Farmers Weekly insisted that a medium-weight man would have to consume more than 11 tonnes of bacon every single day to run the faintest risk of cancer. This was an outrageous fabrication.

But soon the meat lobby came up with a cleverer form of diversion. The AMI the American Meat Institute started to make the argument that the nitrate was only there for the consumers own safety, to ward off botulism a potentially fatal toxin sometimes produced by poorly preserved foods. The scientific director of the AMI argued that a single cup of botulism would be enough to wipe out every human on the planet. So, far from harming lives, bacon was actually saving them.

In 1977, the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture gave the meat industry three months to prove that nitrate and nitrite in bacon caused no harm. Without a satisfactory response, Coudray writes, these additives would have to be replaced 36 months later with non-carcinogenic methods. The meat industry could not prove that nitrosamines were not carcinogenic because it was already known that they were. Instead, the argument was made that nitrates and nitrites were utterly essential for the making of bacon, because without them bacon would cause thousands of deaths from botulism. In 1978, in response to the FDAs challenge, Richard Lyng, director of the AMI, argued that nitrites are to processed meat as yeast is to bread.

The meat industrys tactics in defending bacon have been right out of the tobacco industrys playbook, according to Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. The first move is: attack the science. By the 1980s, the AMI was financing a group of scientists based at the University of Wisconsin. These meat researchers published a stream of articles casting doubt on the harmfulness of nitrates and exaggerating the risk from botulism of non-nitrated hams.

Does making ham without nitrite lead to botulism? If so, it is a little strange that in the 25 years that Parma ham has been made without nitrites, there has not been a single case of botulism associated with it. Almost all the cases of botulism from preserved food which are extremely rare have been the result of imperfectly preserved vegetables, such as bottled green beans, peas and mushrooms. The botulism argument was a smokescreen. The more that consumers could be made to feel that the harmfulness of nitrate and nitrite in bacon and ham was still a matter of debate, the more they could be encouraged to calm down and keep buying bacon.

A bacon sandwich at a diner in Michigan. Photograph: Molly Riley/Reuters

The botulism pretext was very effective. The AMI managed to get the FDA to keep delaying its three-month ultimatum on nitrites until a new FDA commissioner was appointed in 1980 one more sympathetic to hotdogs. The nitrite ban was shelved. The only concession the industry had made was to limit the percentage of nitrites added to processed meat and to agree to add vitamin C, which would supposedly mitigate the formation of nitrosamines, although it does nothing to prevent the formation of another known carcinogen, nitrosyl-haem.

Over the years, the messages challenging the dangers of bacon have become ever more outlandish. An explainer article by the Meat Science and Muscle Biology lab at the University of Wisconsin argues that sodium nitrite is in fact critical for maintaining human health by controlling blood pressure, preventing memory loss, and accelerating wound healing. A French meat industry website,, argues that the use of the right dose of nitrites in ham guarantees healthy and safe products, and insists that ham is an excellent food for children.

The bacon lobby has also found surprising allies among the natural foods brigade. Type nitrate cancer bacon into Google, and you will find a number of healthy eating articles, some of them written by advocates of the Paleo diet, arguing that bacon is actually a much-maligned health food. The writers often mention that vegetables are the primary source of nitrates, and that human saliva is high in nitrite. One widely shared article claims that giving up bacon would be as absurd as attempting to stop swallowing. Out of the mass of stuff on the internet defending the healthiness of bacon, it can be hard to tell which writers have fallen under the sway of the meat lobby, and which are simply clueless nutrition experts who dont know any better.

Either way, this misinformation has the potential to make thousands of people unwell. The mystifying part is why the rest of us have been so willing to accept the cover-up.

Our deepening knowledge of its harm has done very little to damage the comforting cultural associations of bacon. While I was researching this article, I felt a rising disgust at the repeated dishonesty of the processed meat industry. I thought about hospital wards and the horrible pain and indignity of bowel cancer. But then I remembered being in the kitchen with my father as a child on a Sunday morning, watching him fry bacon. When all the bacon was cooked, he would take a few squares of bread and fry them in the meaty fat until they had soaked up all its goodness.

In theory, our habit of eating salted and cured meats should have died out as soon as home refrigerators became widespread in the mid-20th century. But tastes in food are seldom rational, and millions of us are still hooked on the salty, smoky, umami savour of sizzling bacon.

We are sentimental about bacon in a way we never were with cigarettes, and this stops us from thinking straight. The widespread willingness to forgive pink, nitrated bacon for causing cancer illustrates how torn we feel when something beloved in our culture is proven to be detrimental to health. Our brains cant cope with the horrid feeling that bacon is not what we thought it was, and so we turn our anger outwards to the health gurus warning us of its hazards. The reaction of many consumers to the WHO report of 2015 was: hands off my bacon!

In 2010, the EU considered banning the use of nitrates in organic meats. Perhaps surprisingly, the British organic bacon industry vigorously opposed the proposed nitrates ban. Richard Jacobs, the late chief executive of Organic Farmers & Growers, an industry body, said that prohibiting nitrate and nitrite would have meant the collapse of a growing market for organic bacon.

Organic bacon produced with nitrates sounds like a contradiction in terms, given that most consumers of organic food buy it out of concerns for food safety. Having gone to the trouble of rearing pigs using free-range methods and giving them only organic feed, why would you then cure the meat in ways that make it carcinogenic? In Denmark, all organic bacon is nitrate-free. But the UK organic industry insisted that British shoppers would be unlikely to accept bacon that was greyish.

Then again, the slowness of consumers to lose our faith in pink bacon may partly be a response to the confusing way that the health message has been communicated to us. When it comes to processed meat, we have been misled not just by wild exaggerations of the food industry but by the caution of science.

On the WHO website, the harmfulness of nitrite-treated meats is explained so opaquely you could miss it altogether. In the middle of a paragraph on what makes red meat and processed meat increase the risk of cancer, it says: For instance, carcinogenic chemicals that form during meat processing include N-nitroso compounds. What this means, in plain English, is that nitrites make bacon more carcinogenic. But instead of spelling this out, the WHO moves swiftly on to the question of how both red and processed meats might cause cancer, after adding that it is not yet fully understood how cancer risk is increased.

The typical British sausage does not fall into the processed meat category. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

This caution has kept us as consumers unnecessarily in the dark. Consider sausages. For years, I believed that the unhealthiest part in a cooked English breakfast was the sausage, rather than the bacon. Before I started to research this article, Id have sworn that sausages fell squarely into the processed meat category. They are wrongly listed as such on the NHS website.

But the average British sausage as opposed to a hard sausage like a French saucisson is not cured, being made of nothing but fresh meat, breadcrumbs, herbs, salt and E223, a preservative that is non-carcinogenic. After much questioning, two expert spokespeople for the US National Cancer Institute confirmed to me that one might consider fresh sausages to be red meat and not processed meat, and thus only a probable carcinogen. (To me, the fact that most sausages are not processed meat was deeply cheering, and set me dancing around the kitchen with glee thinking about toad in the hole.)

In general, if you ask a cancer scientist to distinguish between the risks of eating different types of meat, they become understandably cagey. The two experts at the National Cancer Institute told me that meats containing nitrites and nitrates have consistently been associated with increased risk of colon cancer in human studies. But they added that it is difficult to separate nitrosamines from other possible carcinogens that may be present in processed meats like bacon. These other suspects include haem iron a substance that is abundant in all red meat, processed or not and heterocyclic amines: chemicals that form in meat during cooking. A piece of crispy, overcooked bacon will contain multiple carcinogens, and not all are due to the nitrates.

The problem with this reasoning, as I see it, is that it cant account for why processed meat is so much more closely linked to cancer than cooked red meat. For that, there remains no plausible explanation except for nitrates and nitrites. But looking for clear confirmation of this in the data is tricky, given that humans do not eat in labs under clinical observation.

Most of what we know about processed meat and cancer in humans comes from epidemiology the study of disease across whole populations. But epidemiologists do not ask the kind of detailed questions about food that the people who eat that food may like answers to. The epidemiological data based on surveys of what people eat is now devastatingly clear that diets high in processed meats lead to a higher incidence of cancer. But it cant tell us how or why or which meats are the best or worst. As Corinna Hawkes of City University comments, The researchers dont ask you if you are eating artisanal charcuterie from the local Italian deli or the cheapest hotdogs on the planet.

I would love to see data comparing the cancer risk of eating nitrate-free Parma ham with that of traditional bacon, but no epidemiologist has yet done such a study. The closest anyone has come was a French study from 2015, which found that consumption of nitrosylated haem iron as found in processed meats had a more direct association with colon cancer than the haem iron that is present in fresh red meat.

It may be possible that epidemiologists have not asked people more detailed questions about what kind of processed meats they eat because they assume there is no mass-market alternative to bacon made without nitrates or nitrites. But this is about to change.

The technology now exists to make the pink meats we love in a less damaging form, which raises the question of why the old kind is still so freely sold. Ever since the war on nitrates of the 1970s, US consumers have been more savvy about nitrates than those in Europe, and there is a lot of nitrate-free bacon on the market. The trouble, as Jill Pell remarks, is that most of the bacon labelled as nitrate-free in the US isnt nitrate-free. Its made with nitrates taken from celery extract, which may be natural, but produces exactly the same N-nitroso compounds in the meat. Under EU regulation, this bacon would not be allowed to be labelled nitrate-free.

Its the worst con Ive ever seen in my entire life, says Denis Lynn, the chair of Finnebrogue Artisan, a Northern Irish company that makes sausages for many UK supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer. For years, Lynn had been hoping to diversify into bacon and ham but, he says, I wasnt going to do it until we found a way to do it without nitrates.

When Lynn heard about a new process, developed in Spain, for making perfectly pink, nitrate-free bacon, he assumed it was another blind alley. In 2009, Juan de Dios Hernandez Canovas, a food scientist and the head of the food tech company Prosur, found that if he added certain fruit extracts to fresh pork, it stayed pink for a surprisingly long time.

In January 2018, Finnebrogue used this technology to launch genuinely nitrate-free bacon and ham in the UK. It is sold in Sainsburys and Waitrose as Naked Bacon and Naked Ham, and in M&S as made without nitrites. Kirsty Adams, who oversaw its launch at M&S, explains that its not really cured. Its more like a fresh salted pork injected with a fruit and vegetable extract, and is more perishable than an old-fashioned flitch of bacon but that doesnt matter, given that it is kept in a fridge. Because it is quick to produce, this is much more economically viable to make than some of the other nitrate-free options, such as slow-cured Parma ham. The bacon currently sells in Waitrose for 3 a pack, which is not the cheapest, but not prohibitive either.

I tried some of the Finnebrogue bacon from M&S. The back bacon tasted pleasant and mild, with a slight fruitiness. It didnt have the toothsome texture or smoky depth of a rasher of butchers dry-cured bacon, but Id happily buy it again as an alternative to nitro-meat. None of my family noticed the difference in a spaghetti amatriciana.

Nitrite-free bacon still sounds a bit fancy and niche, but there shouldnt be anything niche about the desire to eat food that doesnt raise your risk of cancer. Lynn says that when he first approached Prosur about the fruit extract, he asked how much they had sold to the other big bacon manufacturers during the two years they had been offering it in the UK. The answer was none. None of the big guys wanted to take it, claims Lynn. They said: It will make our other processed meats look dodgy.

But it also remains to be seen how much consumer demand there will be for nitrite- or nitrate-free bacon. For all the noise about bacon and cancer, it isnt easy to disentangle at a personal level just what kind of risk we are at when we eat a bacon sandwich. OK, so 34,000 people may die each year because of processed meat in their diet, but the odds are that it wont be you. I asked a series of cancer scientists whether they personally ate processed meat, and they all gave slightly different answers. Jill Pell said she was mostly vegetarian and ate processed meats very rarely. But when I asked Fabrice Pierre, a French expert on colon cancer and meat, if he eats ham, he replied: Yes, of course. But with vegetables at the same meal. (Pierres research at the Toxalim lab has shown him that some of the carcinogenic effects of ham can be offset by eating vegetables.)

Our endless doubt and confusion about what we should be eating have been a gift to the bacon industry. The cover-up about the harm of meat cured with nitrates and nitrites has been helped along by the scepticism many of us feel about all diet advice. At the height of the great bacon scare of 2015, lots of intelligent voices were saying that it was safe to ignore the new classification of processed meats as carcinogenic, because you cant trust anything these nutritionists say. Meanwhile, millions of consumers of ham and bacon, many of them children, are left unprotected. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this controversy is how little public outrage it has generated. Despite everything, most of us still treat bacon as a dear old friend.

In an ideal world, we would all be eating diets lower in meat, processed or otherwise, for the sake of sustainability and animal welfare as much as health. But in the world we actually live in, processed meats are still a normal, staple protein for millions of people who cant afford to swap a value pack of frying bacon for a few slivers of Prosciutto di Parma. Around half of all meat eaten in developed countries is now processed, according to researcher John Kearney, making it a far more universal habit than smoking.

The real victims in all this are not people like me who enjoy the occasional bacon-on-sourdough in a hipster cafe. The people who will be worst affected are those many on low incomes for whom the cancer risk from bacon is compounded by other risk factors such as eating low-fibre diets with few vegetables or wholegrains. In his book, Coudray points out that in coming years, millions more poor consumers will be affected by preventable colon cancer, as westernised processed meats conquer the developing world.

Last month, Michele Rivasi, a French MEP, launched a campaign in collaboration with Coudray demanding a ban of nitrites from all meat products across Europe. Given how vigorously the bacon industry has fought its corner thus far, a total ban on nitrites looks unlikely.

But there are other things that could be done about the risk of nitrites and nitrates in bacon, short of an absolute veto. Better information would be a start. As Corinna Hawkes points out, it is surprising that there hasnt been more of an effort from government to inform people about the risks of eating ham and bacon, perhaps through warning labels on processed meats. But where is the British politician brave enough to cast doubt on bacon?

Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

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6 Old Acquaintances Who Conveniently Came Out Of The Woodwork Right When I Won A Lifetime Supply Of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi AllOlio Di Oliva

After winning a lifetime supply of delicious Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva, I thought I was going to be on easy street for the rest of my life. On the contrary, I had no idea how many old “friends” would suddenly show up looking to get a taste of my haul. Here are six old acquaintances who came out of the woodwork as soon as my pockets were overflowing with wads of tiny fish.

1. My college roommate, Mark Ericson: Mark basically acted like I didn’t exist back when we lived in the same dorm freshman year of college, but I guess all it takes is a few thousand pounds of premium Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva for someone to completely change their personality on a dime. Suddenly, Mark accepted the Facebook friend request I sent him nine years ago, he’s trying to get the only existing picture of us trending on Twitter with the hashtag #AngeloParodiSardinePortoghesiAllOliodiOlivaBoys4Life, and he keeps offering quotes about our “incredibly formative friendship” to our college newsletter for their upcoming story “Alumni Wins Sardine Contest.” Mark can try to rewrite history all he wants, but if he thinks he’s getting even one tin of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva, he’s got another thing coming.

2. My old bandmates: The last time I saw anyone from my old Pearl Jam cover band was when I was dramatically kicked out and told to never come back after I missed too many shows to care for my elderly pet tarantula. Well, it turns out that, in addition to being a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva also has the power to shorten people’s memories! Mere days after I hit it big in the sardine department, all four original band members came crawling back to my door hoping we could run through “Jeremy” like old times to the “smooth backing track of southern Mediterranean fish broiling to perfection” as if I had forgotten them screaming, “You’ve chosen your tarantula over Bellow Ledbetter for the last time!” at me not so long ago. I saw the Tupperware containers hidden in their guitar cases and told them that the only kind of music I make now is the perfect symphony of flavors in my Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva smoked paté, of which I don’t intend to share a single bite.

3. My first love, Kim Johnson: When I look into Kim’s eyes, I don’t feel like a big hotshot with an unlimited amount of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva at my disposal; I feel like a kid with a regular amount of sardines who just wants to love and be loved in return. Perhaps that’s why I pushed away my doubts when Kim, my crush since high school, suddenly decided she wanted to “hang out” after years of ignoring my Facebook invites and “Happy birthday” texts. Unfortunately, the reason for Kim’s change of heart became all too clear when I went to bed one night with the love of my life in my arms and 300 crates of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva in my garage only to wake up the next morning completely alone with just 297 crates of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva in my garage. Lesson learned—it’s lonely at the top.

4. My sixth-grade basketball coach: Interestingly, when I was an awkward 12-year-old with a horrible free-throw average, my basketball coach, Devon Gherrity, would only refer to me as “Princess Butterfingers,” but now that I have enough Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva to feed a small island nation, Coach apparently remembers me as the “single greatest player in the history of the team.” In fact, he even said he’d consider “honoring my legacy” by putting my face on the official team jersey if I was willing to hand over just a small percentage of my Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva cache. I guess for Coach Gherrity, it doesn’t take hard work and perseverance to become a good basketball player, it just takes enough sardines. And frankly, that’s just sad.

5. My pediatrician: No more than a week after my apartment became a veritable emporium of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva, I received a phone call from my childhood pediatrician urging me to come in for an “emergency appointment.” When I arrived, Dr. Jacobs said that my blood work indicated a deficiency of vitamins D, B2, and B12 as well as early signs of cardiovascular disease. “That’s weird, because a healthy diet of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva should specifically prevent all of those conditions,” I said. Dr. Jacobs gasped and said, “Oh my goodness, you’re right! I totally gave you MY charts by accident. Looks like I’m the one whose health could benefit from an increased amount of nutritious Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva.” Then he kept loudly repeating that he felt faint until I had no choice but to fork over one of the 17 tins I carry on my person at all times. How silly of me to think that my old doctor might actually be concerned about my health and not just thinking of his own twisted way to get his hands on a piece of the Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva pie.

6. My nephew, David: I’ve been trying for years to make a connection with my moody nephew, David, but I’m pretty sure he’s never said a single word to me. That’s why I was so excited when I heard that he had written about me for his “my hero” essay in school—and then I read it:

How sweet…not! Even if his play for my sardines wasn’t so desperate, it hurts that David didn’t even mention my years in the Peace Corps or my extensive work with shelter dogs. I’m not just a walking piece of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva, David! I have feelings!

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School Shooting Suspect Made ‘Disturbing’ Social Media Posts

Parkland, Fla. (AP) — The suspect in a deadly rampage at a Florida high school is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media before the shooting spree that killed at least 17 people, according to a law enforcement official and former schoolmates.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for "disciplinary reasons."

"I don't know the specifics," the sheriff said.

However, Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.

School officials said Cruz was attending another school in Broward County after his expulsion.

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said during an interview with CNN that the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he hadn't been back to the clinic for more than a year.

"It wasn't like there wasn't concern for him," Furr said.

"We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren't connected … Most teachers try to steer them toward some kind of connections. … In this case, we didn't find a way to connect with this kid," Furr said.

Israel said investigators were dissecting the suspect's social media posts.

"And some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing," he added without elaborating.

Daniel Huerfano, a student who fled Wednesday's attack, said he recognized Cruz from an Instagram photo in which Cruz posed with a gun in front of his face. Huerfano recalled Cruz as a shy student and remembered seeing him walking around with his lunch bag.

"He was that weird kid that you see … like a loner," he added.

Dakota Mentcher, a 17-year-old junior, said he used to be close friends with Cruz but hadn't seen him in more than a year following his expulsion from school.

"He started progressively getting a little more weird," Mentcher said.

Mentcher recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he had talked about doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

"He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there," Mentcher said.

"I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him," Mentcher said.

Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he did not know of any threats posed by Cruz to the school.

"Typically you see in these situations that there potentially could have been signs out there," Runcie said. "I would be speculating at this point if there were, but we didn't have any warnings. There weren't any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made."

However, a teacher told The Miami Herald that Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat to other students. Jim Gard, a math teacher who said Cruz had been in his class last year, said he believes the school had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz shouldn't be allowed on campus with a backpack.

"There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus," Gard said.


This story has been corrected to show that Dakota Mentcher, not Victoria Olvera, said, "I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him."

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    White House indicates it could find funds to train and arm 1 million teachers

    President expands on idea to arm some teachers in schools and says gun-adept teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly

    The White House indicated on Thursday that the federal government could come up with the money to fund as many as a million teachers being trained and armed with guns across America in a controversial attempt to keep schools safe from more mass shootings.

    This followed repeated assertions from Donald Trump during earlier meetings at the White House, as well as in presidential tweets, that his response to the school massacre in Florida last week is to arm teachers and sports coaches.

    It would be a great deterrent to killers, he said.

    At the White House press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, was asked if it was practical to expect teachers to carry concealed handguns to protect their students from shooters.

    When you have a horrific situation, what you think and do not think is practical can change, Shah said.

    Teachers unions have expressed shock and skepticism that any such plan could be feasible or effective.

    But at a meeting at the White House with state and local officials early Thursday afternoon, Trump talked of paying bonuses to some teachers, providing highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns … [with] a concealed permit.

    He suggested paying bonuses to armed, trained teachers, suggesting that 10, 20, 40% of teachers could be qualified to do so, especially retired military personnel.

    I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected, he said.

    The White House was later challenged that 40% of Americas teachers being given a bonus of, for example, $1,000, would mean $1bn being distributed to a million of them.

    Do you really think thats too much to pay for school safety? Shah responded. Shah said Trump would soon be talking to members of Congress about legislative and budgetary proposals.

    Trump had earlier appeared to speak outagainst the kind of active shooter drills that are becoming the norm in many schools.

    Active shooter drills is a very negative thing … Ill be honest with you. If Im a child, Im 10 years old and they say … Were going to have an active shooter drill, I say Whats that? Well, People may come in and shoot you … I think thats a very negative thing to be talking about, to be honest with you. I dont like it. Id much rather have a hardened school,he said.

    But Shah explained that it was the frightening name the president disliked, not the drills themselves, and was in favor of calling them a safety drill.

    He confirmed that Trump is considering supporting a rise in the age limit for purchasing an assault rifle to 21, but does not support banning assault weapons for US civilians outright. Students who survived the shooting at their high school in Parkland last week quickly began a fierce campaign calling for that measure.

    In contrast to the combative tone coming from the administration, the Parkland mayor, Christine Hunschofsky, addressed safety and mental health in her meeting with Trump on Thursday, and then alluded to the assault rifle used by shooter Nikolas Cruz in last Wednesdays massacre, saying: In the end, how did somebody like this person get access to that kind of firearm?

    Play Video

    Angry father of Florida victim asks Trump: ‘How many children have to get shot?’ video

    At an emotional session at the White House on Wednesday, the US president held a listening session with survivors of last weeks Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, telling them that armed teachers and school coaches could very well end the attack very quickly.

    On Thursday, Trump tweeted: 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this.

    Trump said having so-called gun-free zones around schools created a situation for school shooters like going in for the ice cream.

    At Wednesdays meeting, Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son, Dylan, died at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, spoke out against arming teachers. I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place,she said.

    Randi Weingarten, president of theAmerican Federation of Teachers union said in a statement:Anyone who wants guns in schools has no understanding of what goes on inside them or worse, doesnt care.

    Barack Obama weighed in on Thursday, tweeting: Young people have helped lead all our great movements. How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe.


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    NRA head breaks silence to attack gun control advocates: ‘They hate individual freedom’

    Wayne LaPierre spoke at CPAC in the wake of the Florida school shooting, mounting an unrepentant defense of gun rights

    The head of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) has broken his silence more than a week after the Florida school shooting with a vituperative attack on gun control advocates, accusing them of exploiting the tragedy to push their agenda.

    Wayne LaPierre, whose lobby group faces an unprecedented challenge from the activism of students, including survivors of the massacre, sought to paint his opponents as elites and socialists hellbent on undermining Americans constitutional rights.

    The elites dont care not one whit about Americas school system and schoolchildren, he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the National Harbor in Maryland. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them. For them, its not a safety issue, its a political issue.

    They care more about control, and more of it. Their goal is to eliminate the second amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms… They hate the NRA, they hate the second amendment, they hate individual freedom.

    Addressing a sympathetic audience of conservative grassroots activists, LaPierre continued: They fantasise about more laws stopping what other laws have failed to stop. So many existing laws were ignored. They dont care if their laws work or not. They just want to get more laws to get more control over people. But the NRA the NRA does care.

    The massacre of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, last week was the second deadliest shooting at an American public school and has spurred extraordinary protests across the country. The debate reached a watershed on Wednesday when students and teachers confronted US Senators in a noisy town hall event televised live by CNN; there were raucous cheers for the idea of sweeping bans on assault weapons.

    LaPierres name was initially kept off the agenda at the annual CPAC to protect him from media scrutiny. The NRA often prefers to stay out of the spotlight in the wake of a major shooting.

    LaPierre sought to put the warnings in the wider context of a socialist enemy within, who he said oppose our fundamental freedoms enshrined in the bill of rights. He claimed that the Communist Manifesto and Karl Marx were ascendent on university campuses, describing socialism as a political disease.

    The NRA chief warned the packed ballroom: You should be anxious and you should be frightened. If these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate and, God forbid, they win the White House again our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever, and the first to go will be the second amendment to the US constitution the right to bear arms.

    Pushing the same agenda on school security as Donald Trump, he insisted: The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous. If thats true, armed security makes us less safe, lets just go ahead and remove it from everywhere.

    He continued: We must immediately harden our schools. Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder. It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or jewellery store or some Hollywood gala.

    Schools should be the hardest target in this country. Evil must be confronted with all necessary force to protect our kids.

    He ended his speech, which was met with a standing ovation, by repeating the notorious mantra he had issued after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012: To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.

    In an earlier speech, the NRAs national spokeswoman singled out the media for criticism. Dana Loesch said: Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now Im not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you.

    Under intense public pressure, there has been speculation that Trump might use his credibility with Republicans to take on the NRA, one of his strongest backers. But on Thursday he tweeted full support: What many people dont understand, or dont want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris [Cox] and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

    The president reaffirmed his proposal to address school shootings by giving some teachers guns, tweeting that it would be a great deterrent to killers. He suggested a little bit of a bonus for trained teachers who are armed.

    Trump, who held a listening session with students and parents on Wednesday, also said he would advocate for tightening background checks for gun buyers, with an emphasis on mental health, and lifting the age limit to 21 to buy some types of guns policies less likely to please the powerful pro-gun lobby group.

    Many attendees at CPAC expressed support for the idea of arming teachers.

    Debi Millman, a fundraiser based in Los Angeles, suggested it was more realistic than restricting a country already awash with guns. How many millions of them are there? Youre never going to be able to keep evil out. A better solution for me is have the schools be able to defend themselves. If criminals know that if they attack a school theyll get their heads blown off, thats a good idea.

    Randi Green, a personal trainer from Los Angeles, interjected: Except for the fact most teachers are liberals and would baulk at the idea.

    Green was sceptical about the students at Parkland who had been speaking out. Theyre definitely being manipulated, she said. Everybody has a voice but these are young kids and I dont think they know better than lawmakers. I thought they were very disrespectful in the way they speak to people. I think the parents are rooting them on.

    Scott Pio, 33, wearing a red Make America great again cap, also backed the proposal for teachers to carry and conceal firearms. We can arm everybody else around important people, why cant we arm everybody around our students, especially as they are soft targets? What are people so afraid of? Even city council managers are already protected by guns.

    Pio, a software engineer from Fairfax, Virginia, also suggested making schools more secure, with only one point of entry, and increasing the number of security guards on site. But he was opposed to a ban on semi-automatic weapons. There are plenty of people in rural areas who use guns to protect their homes and go hunting. But Im OK with raising the age to 21 for assault rifles.

    Chris Davis, 44, a police officer from Pennsylvania, said he was impressed by the students who have spoken out but criticised liberal campaigners demanding tighter gun controls. These same people say President Trump is a tyrant. The reason you have the second amendment is to protect yourself from a tyrant.

    Todd McKinley, 40, a retired soldier from Kingsport, Tennessee, added: The left called him Hitler, but then they want to grab all guns just like Hitler did.


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    This Is What We Should Be Teaching Young Girls About Self Love And Beauty

    Caroline Hernandez

    But how are we supposed to teach young girls lessons we haven’t even learned ourselves?

    Society puts a lot of pressure on everyone to look a certain way. It’s all a numbers game.

    Size. Weight. Measurements. Beauty. Restrictions. Calorie consumption.

    From an early age, we are weighed in front of our classmates during gym. We are asked for sizes in front of our teammates for uniforms. If girls aren’t judging each other they are judging themselves and social media is making every part of their life a competition.

    It’s a generation recording everything on smartphones from what they eat to what workout they do needing validation and acceptance.

    We are teaching girls to look at their flaws instead of their attributes striving for perfection that isn’t real.

    Comparing themselves to models in magazines. Filtering every picture they post like they have to. Editing everything so heavily.

    Defining happiness based on notifications.

    Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat. It encourages you to judge people first by appearance or how happy they might be and what they are putting out there. But we get caught up in judging ourselves too wondering why everyone else seems happier than us hiding it and overcome with guilt.

    Dating apps where adults are judging one another based on photos alone. This is what we are teaching them that it’s okay to judge people solely on what they look like instead of who they are.

    It’s a competition that has only gotten worse with advances in technology.

    And we wonder why there’s a higher rate of depression.

    According to Business Insider,

    ‘After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.’

    This is what we should be telling girls about self-love and actual beauty. And this is how we should be talking to ourselves.

    Don’t talk about her body in regards to appearance but rather the wonderful things bodies are capable of doing. Don’t look in the mirror and talk to yourself about what you don’t like. Don’t talk about her weight in regards to what she should lose or gain. Don’t set a goal thinking that’s going to make you happy. Don’t talk to her about what she should change. Teach her as well as yourself to learn to like your flaws.

    Don’t use words like skinny. Use words like beautiful and strong. Realize being healthy is what’s it’s about. It’s not about being skinny. It’s teaching her to workout not because she hates herself and wants to change but because it’s wonderful to see what your body can do and working out changes your attitude.

    It’s teaching her to eat healthy because what you put into your body is important to your long-term health not just what you look like. It’s teaching her to pursue her favorite sport because there are some things teams can teach you that no one else can.

    Don’t compliment her appearance but rather something unique about her. Because what makes her and what makes you beautiful has nothing to do with appearance and everything to do with how she treats people and how she makes them feel about themselves.

    That’s beauty.

    Being authentic is beautiful. Being kind is beautiful. Being a good person is beautiful. And those are things you can’t buy in a store.

    Teach her what’s attractive about her aren’t her looks but her passion. That she isn’t limited by who she is or what she looks like. That what carries her is going to be her attitude. How she lights up talking about the things she cares about. How she does something she loves every day and as a result, she becomes good at it and people admire her for it.

    We need to stop teaching girls they need to change to love themselves because she doesn’t.

    If we want to teach our young girls to love and accept themselves we have to set the example of loving who we are not wanting to change.

    Confidence is important. Liking the person looking back at you is essential. But I think a lot of us don’t even know how to be good enough for ourselves anymore.

    How we talk to young girls is so important but how we talk to them is a reflection of how we talk and view ourselves.

    So if we want to raise a generation of girls that turn into strong women set that example. Because as much as they deserve to love themselves you do too.

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    Trump misses the mark on his gun response, and we deserve better.

    On Feb. 14, a former student walked into Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he shot and killed 17 people.

    It was the 18th school shooting in this year’s first 45 days. Like a number of other recent shootings, the gunman used a highly customizable AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Like many more, the shooter had a history of domestic violence.

    In an interview with the Daily Beast, classmates of the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, described him as “creepy and weird” and an “outcast” known for spreading anti-Muslim hate and wearing President Trump’s ubiquitous “Make America Great Again” hat.

    Students react following the shooting. Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images.

    When it came time to address the country in the wake of this tragedy, Trump did what many politicians do in these situations: He blamed mental illness.

    “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

    But then what? In fact, according to BuzzFeed, the FBI was made aware of Cruz as a potential school shooting threat back in September. Cruz allegedly posted online, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

    At what point should he have been stopped? Trump placed blame on people for not reporting Cruz to law enforcement, when in fact, he was.

    Then there’s the matter of mental health.

    Trump addressed the county from the White House on Feb. 15, 2018. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

    Speaking from the White House, Trump managed to avoid mentioning the word “gun” in his televised address. Rather, he tossed in a few religious references, saying, “In these moments of heartache and darkness, we hold onto God’s word in Scripture: ‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.'”

    He committed to visiting the school sometime in the near future, and said that the country needs to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”

    Gun violence isn’t a mental health issue, and even if it were, our government is failing to address “the difficult issue of mental health,” generally.

    A 2014 study by Drs. Jonathan M. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish set out to explore the connection between mental illness and mass shootings.

    Together, Metzl and MacLeish examined four of the major arguments made in the wake of mass shootings: that mental illness causes gun violence, that a psychiatric diagnosis can predict future violence, that we should fear “mentally ill loners,” and that gun control won’t prevent future mass shootings.

    What they found was that mental illness and gun violence have a tenuous connection at best, and that a lot of the rhetoric around that connection is vastly oversimplified.

    Even if mental health and gun violence shared a convincing causal relationship, the fact is that this administration has repeatedly tried to gut Americans’ access to health care — including mental health That leaves us with just two options: Either our politicians don’t believe this is actually a mental health issue, or they think it is but don’t care enough to fix it.

    Neither option is cutting it. We deserve better — so do our kids.

    Columbine was 25 fatal school shootings ago. We’ve done shockingly little to prevent this from happening again. Our collective shrug has created a generation that sees this as a normal part of life.

    But even they’re not having it anymore. On the morning of Feb. 15, Parkland students Kelsey Friend and David Hogg went on CNN, and pointed out what’s painfully obvious about solutions that involve little more than offering “thoughts and prayers” and blaming mental health. “What we need more than [thoughts and prayers] is action,” said Hogg.

    “We’re children,” he said. “You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role.”

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    Wine for you and your feline is on sale for National Drink Wine With Your Cat Week

    Clink clink, y'all.
    Image: petwinery

    Heads up: All products featured here are selected by Mashable’s commerce team and meet our rigorous standards for awesomeness. If you buy something, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

    Drinking wine alone with your cat is an unspoken rite of passage to becoming an adult. And if you find yourself turning down plans because you’re “busy” when in reality you’re just going home to sip Merlot while Fluffy snuggles into you on the couch, you might want to keep reading. is combining two post Valentine’s Day holidays, National Drink Wine Day on Feb. 18 and National Love Your Pet Day on Feb. 20, to create one massive holiday week that I personally have been waiting my entire life for: National Drink Wine With Your Cat Week. It’s running from Feb. 19 to Feb. 23, and it’s amazing.

    Okay so it might be made up, but aren’t all holidays technically made up? And who cares, because wine is on sale at multiple retailers and that’s something we will never complain about. Remember the non-alcoholic cat wine trend from a few years back? It’s totally still a thing and it’s also on sale. 

    Check out the best deals on wine for the upcoming week — we encourage stocking up as much as possible.

    For your cat

    The PetWinery is your cat’s best bet for Wine Wednesday as they stock all things animal mocktails at the Pet Bar. The menu includes cat champagne and cat wine, because after a long, hard day of being a cat, they need a little something to take the edge off, too.

    The drinks are non-alcoholic, but they are rich in fish oil, which is said to have multiple health benefits for cats. Choose from flavors like Meowsling, Purrgundry, and Mëow & Chandon, and take 20% off any order with this exclusive coupon code.

    For you

    Image: martha stewart wine co.

    Here’s the stuff you really care about. With five retailers offering discounts on wine from too many brands to count, we’d say the possibilities are truly endless. If you’re too impatient to wait for bottles to come in the mail, check out alcohol delivery services like Drizly and get a bottle or five delivered to your doorstep in an hour. 

    More deals on wine for National Drink Wine With Your Cat Week: On Feb. 18, take 10% off your first order and 10% off when you buy six bottles or more. Plus get $20 off orders over $100 for new customers.

    Martha Stewart Wine Co: Save up to 25% on Martha’s picks including Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato, Malbec, and many types of Rosé.

    WSJ Wine: Get dry reds and whites starting at $9.99.

    Uncorked: Save 10% on all orders.

    Minibar Delivery: Get $10 off any order for new customers.

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    Farrah Abraham Has A Bitter AF Final Message To Her Teen Mom OG Costars!

    Farrah’s revenge!

    As we reported, after Farrah Abraham had a falling out with Teen Mom OG producers,the controversial reality TV star was replaced by Teen Mom 3 star MacKenzie McKee.

    To make matters more complicated, the mother is suing producer Morgan J. Freeman and Viacom for at least $5 million over porn shaming allegations.

    Related: Kailyn Lowry Applauds MTV For Firing David Eason!

    On Friday, the 26-year-old issued a final statement to her costars, and not surprisingly, its bitter and salty AF!

    According to

    “I wish all the women of Teen Mom the best as their jealousy, hatred, and women-hating should stop and more so lift up and empower women… This show lacks [confidence], [security], honesty, and integrity, which is why the adults of this show must be controlled and puppeteered by producers and staff.”

    The 16 and Pregnant alum says she’s even concerned about the safety and well-being of Catelynn Lowell, Maci Bookout, and Amber Portwood‘s children!

    “The effect on their children is concerning… I deeply hope the mothers and fathers take their children’s development and safety more serious… As I start a new chapter, I wish all the families the best in safety and health.”

    To conclude, the Farrah Superstar: Backdoor Teen Mom actress gives a really weird quote about changing the world and society. WTF is she talking about??

    “To make a change in society, ‘see something say something’… Many aren’t leaders and making world changes. I chose this life, I will always continue to make this world a better place above all the lies and attacks against me… I think I’ve done this better than most in reality TV.”‘

    Farrah has left the building…

    [Image via Farrah Abraham/Instagram.]

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