It seems that every issue these days somehow gets politicised and used as fodder in this weird culture war that benefits nobody except for politicians and media outlets hell-bent on profiteering off social division, and today’s dispute over the ham sandwich is no different.
If you’re not up-to-date on the latest battle for our minds and hearts (and specifically the coronary arteries in our hearts), the Cancer Council has made a suggestion that perhaps parents consider not packing ham in their children’s lunchboxes because of mounting evidence accumulated over the by the World Health Organisation that processed meats can increase one’s risk of cancer.
In leaflets sent out to public schools, parents were encouraged to ‘ditch the ham sandwich’ and opt for a ‘meat-free Monday’ in order to improve children’s nutritional intake. This is because, according to a spokeswoman for the Cancer Council: “There is strong evidence that eating processed meats and too much red meat is associated with increased risk of bowel cancer, our cancer prevention messages advise everyone to limit their processed meat consumption and cut down on red meat.”
It seems like a relatively reasonable suggestion to make. If something has been proven to increase one’s risk of cancer, perhaps parents should be encouraged not expose their children to it. For example, parents probably shouldn’t pack cigarettes, asbestos and radioactive remnants of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in their children’s lunchboxes either.
However, even the most innocuous suggestion can become a media storm when politicians realise that this is an opportunity to appeal to their base. Cue NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet who on Tuesday told journalists: “Didn’t Homer Simpson call the pig the amazing, wonderful animal? And we all love pig. We all love ham, and pork and bacon, and I think it’s great for kids.”
Firstly, Homer Simpson actually called pig a ‘magical’ animal. Secondly, vegans, vegetarians, Jews and Muslims (just to name a few) might disagree with the sentiment that ‘we all love pig’. And, thirdly, yes, you read that correctly; the NSW Premier has decided to side with nutritional advice from a fictional cartoon character battling obesity and who once underwent a triple-bypass (in a very funny episode that satirised America’s inept healthcare system) over the advice from the Cancer Council.
“I know with my kids, I start the week with ham and it kind of deteriorates over the course of the week, but the Cancer Council does a great job, but maybe they could sit this one out,” Perrottet added. What the NSW Premier means by ‘deteriorates over the course of the week’ is up for interpretation. We can only presume that by Friday his kids are going to school with some canned spam and a vape for lunch.
Of course, it is true that not all ham products are associated with a greater risk of cancer. “The World Health Organisation has associated processed meats with increased risk of cancer… But it would depend on the processing of the ham,” nutritionist Kristen Beck told The Daily Telegraph. “Is it ham off the bone, has it been smoked, what sort of processing has it gone through? It is a little bit of an over-reaction to demonise one particular food.”
So, in summary, processed ham is bad and unprocessed ham is probably fine. Now, let’s call this battle a draw and move on to the next frontier of this endless culture war! What’s getting ‘cancelled’ next due to ‘PC wokeness’? Will it be the dim sim? The meat pie? Only time will tell!