Meat Industry Reacts to Red, Processed Meat Cancer Report

GLOBAL - Following yesterday's report from the World Health Organisation labelling processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans", the meat industry has reacted by saying that consumers do not need to change meat-eating habits.
calendar icon 27 October 2015
clock icon 2 minute read

The WHO classification was made on the basis of "sufficient evidence for colorectal (bowel) cancer".

However, the consumption of unprocessed red meat was only classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” because of insufficient evidence.

Maureen Strong, Nutrition Manager for AHDB said: “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) isn’t saying eating red and processed meat as part of a balanced diet causes cancer: no single food causes cancer.

"Nor is it saying it’s as dangerous as smoking, which Cancer Research UK has pointed out today. IARC itself has said that the risk from processed meat remains small."

She said that the government recommended eating no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day, and the advice was not changing, adding that people in the UK only consume 17g per day on average anyway.

“Red and processed meat plays an important role in a balanced diet, providing protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins," Ms Strong said.

"There’s no evidence that removing meat from your diet protects against cancer. In fact a major, long term study by Oxford University has shown no difference in colorectal cancer rates between meat eaters and vegetarians.”

The American Beef Board said in a statement that science did not support the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) decision.

“There are a constellation of factors that are associated with the probability of getting cancer, which include age, genetics, socioeconomic characteristics, obesity, lack of physical activity, where you grew up, alcohol consumption, smoking and even your profession,” said epidemiologist Dominik Alexander in the statement.

“The bottom line is the epidemiologic science on red meat consumption and cancer is best described as weak associations and an evidence base that has weakened over time. And most importantly, because red meat is consumed in the context of hundreds of other foods and is correlated with other behavioural factors, it is not valid to conclude red meat is an independent cause of cancer.”

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