BBC Horizon programme questioned by industry body
Published:  18 August, 2014

Claims by BBC’s Horizon programme that eating processed meat is detrimental to health have been refuted by an industry body.

In tonight’s episode - Should I Eat Meat? - Doctor Michael Mosley attempts to uncover the truth about the effect eating meat has on health.

With recent studies linking red-meat consumption to major health scares such as breast cancer, presenter, Mosley looked at similar studies such as the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (Epic), published in BMC Medicine in 2013, called Meat Consumption and Mortality.  

As part of his research Mosley embarked on a high meat diet, eating around 130g a day for a month - 60g more than the 70g red-meat consumption which is widely considered as safe. Unsurprisingly, Mosley reported to have “piled on the weight” while his blood pressure and cholesterol both increased.

The study concluded that “eating moderate amounts of red meat had no effect on mortality. The lowest overall mortality rates were in those eating up to 80g a day,” Mosley reported. However, The Epic study also found that processed meats over 40g a day increased chances of heart disease and cancers, Mosley added.

A recent report from the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) stated the average UK intake of red meat was 71g, demonstrating that, for most people, red meat consumption does not need to change.

However, the study, and subsequently Mosley concluded that processed red-meat consumption had a negative impact on health, likening eating bacon sandwiches to smoking cigarettes.

“Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University says another way of looking at this is, if the studies are right, that you would expect someone who eats a bacon sandwich every day to live, on average, two years less than someone who does not,” Mosley reported.

This has been called “bad science, irresponsible and scaremongering” by Dr Carrie Ruxton, a public health nutritionist and dietician, who sits on the MAP. “The difficulty with such observational studies is the high meat consumers often represent a cluster of behaviours - smoking for instance.”

Ruxton added that “an hour off your life” science, which is extracted from such observational studies, is “nonsense”.

“The 70g a day recommended intake is not split up into processed or unprocessed - it should not be half and half. Some men are recorded to eat 40% more than that, but only one in 10 women eat the recommended amount. So there are groups in society that should be eating more meat.

“Perhaps if Doctor Mosley had 100g a day of lamb or grass-fed beef it would have been a different story, an excess of poor quality anything will have a negative affect,” Ruxton concluded.

Should I Eat Meat? Airs this evening (18 August), on BBC 2 at 9pm.

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