British sausage manufacturers have called for clarity after being dragged into the debate over processed meats and cancer.

A report published this week by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer claimed eating 50g of processed meat a day increases the chance of bowel cancer by 18%.

It put processed meat on its group 1 list of carcinogens, alongside smoking, asbestos, diesel fumes, mustard gas and plutonium, while red meat was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” alongside herbicide glyphosate as a group 2A carcinogen.

But hitting back against media reports that sausages now ranked alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer, suppliers pointed out most UK-produced sausages would not be considered “processed meat” because they do not use any of the processes or chemicals referred to in the report.

“While it is buried in the footnotes, the processed meat the report refers to ‘has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation,” said a spokesperson for Northern Irish sausage producer Finnebrogue.

“These processes and chemicals are generally not used in the production of the high quality traditional fresh Irish or British sausage and at no stage is the meat ‘transformed’.”

Debbe Keeble, co-founder of Heck, said there was a “misclassification issue” and called for greater clarity over the differences between fresh British sausages and Continental sausages like salami and chorizo.

Maureen Strong, nutrition manager for AHDB, said the “vast majority” of British sausages and burgers would not be considered as processed meat as defined by the IARC report.