• Spain's news in English

Spain is ready to give up cancer-causing jamón... and pigs might fly

Fiona Govan · 30 Oct 2015, 14:16

Published: 30 Oct 2015 14:16 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Jamón is a national obsession in Spain. You cannot go very far without coming across it, whether it’s hanging from a ceiling by its trotter, served up in deliciously thin slivers alongside a glass of vino or chopped up and strewn among a plate of vegetables.

So when the WHO issued a health warning this week that carcinogens were present in certain types of meat, including the beloved jamón, I almost expected Spain to declare a state of national mourning.

One of the images being shared on social media this week

However, Spaniards have taken the news that their daily staple could be as dangerous to their health as cigarettes, plutonium and asbestos, completely in their stride to the point of ignoring the warnings entirely or treating the whole issue as a joke.

Initially, there appeared to be collective denial that the warning even included jamón with Spain as a whole accepting that, while processed meat might well be dangerous, the study couldn't possibly include ham, naturally cured in mountain air from the lovingly reared, free-range acorn fed piggies.

But it does.

WATCH: Are Spaniards ready to give up cancer-causing jamon?

Spain’s jamón producers were incredulous about the report and swiftly dismissed the danger.

"It’s ridiculous to put jamon serrano in the same category as a processed hamburger," lamented Ricardo Mosteo, head of the Designation of Origin (DO) board for the ham producing region of Teruel.

"In fact there are so many studies that show the health benefits of jamón, even for pregnant woman."

Well those in the jamón trade would say that, ever fearful of the devastating effect that such a warning could have on their industry, which in the sale of ham legs alone is worth €1.5 billion according to a 2014 report from the Spanish Jamón Serrano Foundation (FJSE).

Spaniards devour an estimated 5kgs of serrano ham each over a year, to say nothing of the chorizo, morcilla, lomo and other pig products that form such a large part of the Iberian diet. And yet they have the highest life expectancy in the European Union.

So The Local paid a trip to some of Madrid’s popular jamon serving establishments to see whether attitudes might change.

WATCH: Are Spaniards ready to give up cancer-causing jamon?

Paco Gonzalez, proprietor of Casa Gonzalez, which specializes in quality Spanish products certainly  doesn’t pay much heed to the study.

"Jamón is about as carcinogenic as the air we breathe every day," he insisted. "The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world, and this kind of meat is an important part of this diet."

Gonzalez, who is the third generation to run a business that started in 1931, stressed that it was eating in moderation that was the important thing, not giving up jamón.

Story continues below…

"There is a lot of proof that eating jamón, in moderation, can we really good for you. In fact, jamón iberico has no cholesterol," he added.

One twitter user joked: "It breaks my heart when I see young people acting this way. Heartrending image."

Jamon is as much a part of the Spanish tradition as drinking wine or taking a stroll with friends that it is virtually impossible to imagine a Spain without it.

As one elderly smiley jamon-lover told us in the video:

"Ham is good. I really like ham. For everybody!"

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Fiona Govan (fiona.govan@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man rescued from bin after climbing in find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
jobs available