Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), said it is important to note that the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report also clearly recognises the nutritional benefits of eating red meat.
“It is equally important to consider the background to this report. The IARC has looked at over 900 substances since 1971 and decided that all, apart from one, is at least capable of causing cancer in certain circumstances. These substances include such diverse products as coffee, paint, hairdressing products and talcum powder,” said Mr McLaren.
QMS advice, in line with current government *guidelines, is that meat should be eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet. IARC’s findings are not based on any new evidence from any new research. The government looked at the same evidence in 2010 and recommended people eat no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day and that’s exactly what the vast majority of us are eating.
“IARC’s findings suggest that eating 50g of processed meat brings a small increase in risk. However average consumption in the UK is just 17g per day so people would have to eat three times their current level to increase their risk.
“Avoiding red meat could in fact be detrimental to health – for example around 40% of women and teenage girls have iron intakes which are too low. Red meat is a natural source of protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins and we should continue to enjoy it in the knowledge that it plays a vital role in our diets,” Mr McLaren added.
He also pointed out that vegetarians were found to have the same rate of bowel cancer as meat eaters in one of the biggest studies of its kind in the UK carried out by Oxford University.
*These guidelines give a recommendation of around 70g of cooked red and processed meat per day, the equivalent of two slices of roast beef, two lamb chops or around three large rashers of bacon. This recommendation was based on a review of available evidence by Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the vast majority of the UK population currently eat within the recommended guidelines.