The Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) has acted promptly to bring some clarity to the media debate sparked by today’s red meat report from World Health Organization/International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO/IARC).
“IARC isn’t saying eating red and processed meat as part of a balanced diet causes cancer: no single food causes cancer,” said AHDB’s nutrition manager, Maureen Strong. “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.”
Ms Strong also pointed out that the UK government looked at the same evidence in 2010 and recommended that people eat no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day, which is “exactly what the vast majority of us are eating”.
“The government has already said that this advice is not changing,” she added, pointing out that IARC’s findings suggest that eating 50g of processed meat brings only “a small increase in risk”, a fact which needs to be set against average consumption in the UK of just 17g per day .
“People would need to eat three times their current levels to increase their risk.”
Ms Strong also sought to highlight the many positives attached to eating meat, stating that both red meat and processed meat plays an important role in a balanced diet, providing protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins.
“There’s no evidence,” she added, “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.”