Anger at more red meat and cancer links

The meat industry has reacted with anger to yet more attacks on the sector by cancer charities, which continue to claim links between red meat consumption and rising cases of cancer.

Cancer Research UK said that, in 2008 in the UK, there were around 21,500 cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in men compared with around 11,800 cases in 1975, while there were around 17,400 cases of bowel cancer in women in 2008 compared with around 13,500 in 1975.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “An ageing population as well as changes in lifestyle have both led to more people developing cancer than a generation ago. But even though the chances of getting the disease have increased in the population, there are many ways that people can cut their own risk. You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a healthy diet that’s high in fibre and low in red and processed meat, cutting down on alcohol and not smoking.”

However, that suggested link with meat has caused anger across the industry. Nick Allen, sector director at Eblex, said: “It is disappointing yet again to read suggestions that a single action, like cutting back on red meat, will prevent you developing cancer. Red meat consumption in the UK has fallen by nearly 20% since 1970. During that time, as the Cancer Research UK report says, instances of bowel cancer in men have doubled. It seems then that consuming less red meat has had little impact on the overall rate.

“Red meat is a nutritious food and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, as supported by the Government’s Eatwell plate approach to nutrition.”

Meanwhile, the World Cancer Research Fund said women in the UK were 17% more likely to develop cancer by the age of 75 than the European average. In a statement it said experts have suggested the reasons include high obesity levels and alcohol consumption, however it went onto urge women to cut red and processed meat from their diet.

In a letter to MTJ, Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietician and member of the Meat Advisory Panel, said the cancer claims were irresponsible: “Because meat is one of the best sources of easily absorbed iron in the diet, UK women who cut down on red meat could be putting their health at risk.”