Hongkongers tuck into an average of three-and-half sausages and nearly two slices of ham per week, posing a significant cancer risk according to a recent World Health Organisation study. The WHO finding, deeming processed meats to be carcinogenic and as dangerous as tobacco and asbestos, prompted strong reactions, ranging from a leading food representative who questioned it to medical experts who welcomed it. Simon Wong Ka-wo, chairman of the Chamber of Food and Beverage Industry, said the study was too "harsh" and that business for local restaurants and supermarkets would suffer, while doctors called it a much-needed red flag to meat-loving locals. Chinese University associate professor of oncology Stephen Chan Lam said the WHO report did not cover all Hongkongers' other favourite foods linked to cancer and was based on Western eating habits. "It did not mention lap cheong [Chinese sausage] and pickles popular in Asian countries, which I believe are also cancer-causing," he said. Local demand for processed meats including sausages and ham has grown in recent years. Figures showed that 23.1 million kilograms of sausages were imported last year, up 3.9 per cent from the previous year and up 17 per cent from the year before that. The city brought in 18 million kilograms of ham last year. Based on the numbers, each Hongkonger on average consumed daily 7.9 grams of sausage, or half a piece, and 6.1 grams of ham, or a quarter slice. This would not include other processed meats and red meat that the WHO also warned about. On Monday, the WHO said eating processed meat could lead to bowel cancer, comparable to tobacco, asbestos and diesel fumes in being linked to cancer. Bowel cancer ranked second in Hong Kong in cancer-related fatalities, outpaced only by lung cancer, according to city figures. Chan said people could eat processed meat once a week, but it was best to avoid it and take more fibre. But Wong, of the food industry, said the WHO and city's Food and Health Bureau should clarify that if processed foods do not contain certain additives the cancer risk would be "less".