Impending meat report debunked by UK experts

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A report into the carcinogenic effects of meat set to be launched next week has already been slammed by UK industry experts. 

Details of the report, due to be published by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer on Monday (26 October), were leaked to the Daily Mail this week.

It lists processed and red meat on the ‘encyclopaedia of carcinogens’ which also includes cigarettes and asbestos. The report has been worked on by a team of scientists from 10 countries, including the UK.

The meat industry in the UK has moved fast to dispel fears over the consumption of processed and red meat products.

Emeritus Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Cardiff and a member of the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP), Professor Robert Pickard said: “No one food gives you cancer and speculating ahead of the World Health Organisation announcement on the 26th October creates a situation of confusing messages. What we do know is that avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer. The top priorities for cancer prevention remain smoking cessation, maintenance of normal body weight and avoidance of high alcohol intakes.

“In fact, a large European study showed that bowel cancer rates were similar in vegetarians and meat-eaters suggesting that meat avoidance does not help prevent bowel cancer. Choosing a meat-free diet is a lifestyle choice – it is not vital for health. For the majority of people who currently eat the recommended dietary levels of red meat, which is 70g per day and wish to continue doing so, moderate amounts of red meat can be enjoyed within a healthy balanced diet.”

Dr Carrie Ruxton, an independent dietitian and MAP member, added: “Government experts are clear how much red meat we should be eating, which is up to 70g per day. In fact, the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey reports that the average intake in UK adults is 71g of which we eat just 17g of processed meat a day. This means that most people don’t need to reduce their red meat consumption. Indeed, some groups such as women, girls and pre-school children, could eat more red meat to access the many nutritional benefits, such as iron, B vitamins, vitamin D and selenium.”

Maureen Strong, nutrition manager at AHDB also said that meat shouldn’t be completely cut out of diets. “We’ve always said that red and processed meats can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet. Meat is a natural source of protein and nutrients like iron, zinc and B vitamins. The Government recommends that people do not eat more than 70g of red or processed meat per day and that’s what the vast majority of us eat in the UK.”

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