Meat industry rejects report linking its products to cancer

Britain’s meat industry has hit back at the World Health Organisation report that raised alarm over its products by claiming that bacon, sausages and ham cause cancer.

An advisory body funded by British meat producers said the key to preventing cancer was avoiding heavy drinking, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, reports The Guardian. “Red and processed meats do not give you cancer,” said Robert Pickard, a member of the Meat Advisory Panel and emeritus professor of neurobiology at the University of Cardiff.

“Avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer,” he added. “The top priorities for cancer prevention remain smoking cessation, maintenance of normal body weight and avoidance of high-alcohol intakes. Red meat has a valuable role within a healthy, balanced diet thanks to its high-protein content and rich nutritional composition.”

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, which is funded by the farming industry, played down the report’s findings. Maureen Strong, the nutrition manager for the AHDB, said: “The International Agency for Research on Cancer isn’t saying red and processed meat as part of a balanced diet causes cancer: no single food causes cancer. Nor is it saying it is as dangerous as smoking … the IARC itself has said that the risk from processed meat remains small.”

The review by the IARC, the WHO’s cancer research arm, put processed meat in its group 1 list, which includes tobacco and asbestos as categories for which there is “sufficient evidence” of cancer links. Red meat was in the report’s group 2A list.

The National Farmers’ Union said the scientific and medical communities have backed red meat consumption at recommended quantities as beneficial to health.

Meurig Raymond, the NFU president, said: “The NFU has always stated that eating lean red meat has an important role to play in a healthy balanced diet. It’s a traditional part of the British lifestyle and is enjoyed by most of the population,.”

One British meat producer, Charles Baughan, owner of Westaways Sausages in Devon, dismissed the report. “I’ve just finished eating some Hog’s pudding and I’m not the slightest bit concerned about my health,” he said. “I have a certain scepticism about reports like the one produced by the World Health Organisation.”

Referring to relatives who have run the family-owned firm previously, he said: “Many of them have lived into their 90s and I don’t think any of them have had cancer.” Westaways, which produces 500,000 sausages per week, believes the report will not curb the public’s appetite for red and processed meats.

Meanwhile, shares in Cranswick, a sausage-skin manufacturer, were trading broadly unchanged as investors counted on the public retaining their appetite for bacon, sausages and ham.