UPDATED: Meat leaders fight back on "cut back" claims
Published:  25 February, 2011

Meat leaders are fighting back over media reports claiming government advice is for consumer to eat less meat.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition report, published today, advises consumers to eat 70g of red or processed meat a day, which is also currently the average UK level of consumption. Industry representatives are therefore pointing out headlines claiming "consumers must eat less meat" are inaccurate.

“The SACN report published today confirmed that for the vast majority of people there is no need to change their meat eating habits or cut their intake of red meat. The recommended level from SACN is already the average consumption in the UK," said Maureen Strong, nutrition manager for Bpex and Eblex.

“A recently published review has shown that a moderate intake of lean red meat makes a significant positive contribution to nutrition without risking any negative health effects. We support the advice given by the British Nutrition Foundation and the newly formed Meat Advisory Panel, which is that eating red meat in moderation is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. This is echoed in the SACN report," she added.

The SACN report was widely leaked across media in the run-up to publication today. The report echoes guidance given by the World Cancer Research Fund which recommended the 500g limit on red meat, but urged consumers to cut all processed meat which it claimed increase the risk of bowel cancer.

Interim chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Following simple diet and lifestyle advice can help protect against cancer. Red meat can be part of a healthy balanced diet. It is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins.

“But people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down. The occasional steak or extra few slices of lamb is fine but regularly eating a lot could increase your risk of bowel cancer.

“The impact of cancer on individuals and families can be devastating. Last month, we launched the first ever cancer awareness campaign about how to recognise the early signs and symptoms of bowel cancer. We’re now going a step further and giving scientific advice on how to help prevent it.”

The report has been greeted by cancer groups. Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer said: “We welcome this new advice from the Department of Health. The evidence suggests that a diet high in red and processed meat may increase your risk of developing bowel cancer, but the good news is that red meat can still be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet. This combined with an active lifestyle, and awareness of the symptoms and risk factors, could help protect you from the UK’s second biggest cancer killer.”

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