Richard Lowe, director general of the MLC, told delegates at the BMPA conference that the industry should brace itself for the publication of the World Cancer Research Fund's report on Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer.
Lowe said: "The report, which was last published in 1997, will be a synthesis of all the work carried out around the world on cancer and diet. This is not some third-hand piece of research; it's a review of all the cancer statistics over the last 10 years."
He warned the industry that the report could have serious issues for the sector: "Our guess - and at the moment we can only guess because we haven't seen the report - is that meat will have convincing links to some types of cancer," he said.
According to Lowe, in the last report, meat and meat products were only considered possible and probable causes of certain types of cancer. "We can imagine how parts of the UK media are going to run that story," he said. "However, it's nice to have so much warning of what could be a crisis."
As a result, the MLC is going to be targeting the medical profession, through the industry's trade journals: "If the report is going to do long term damage, it will come from doctors and healthcare professionals as it will impact through the advice they give to their patients.
"Forty per cent of GPs get nutritional information from magazines and newspapers and the NHS training on nutrition is pitiful. So if the starting position is that the Daily Mail is the training manual for doctors and nurses, then we've got problems."