Row erupts over meat and cancer link claims

A row has broken out between the livestock industry and scientists over whether claims there is a link between eating red meat and cancer are true.

The English Beef and Lamb Executive, the NFU, the National Beef Association and the National Sheep Association said policymakers had used flawed science to make decisions on the future of the red meat industry.

They accused the World Cancer Research Fund of making mistakes over the link between red meat and bowel cancer.

The claims came as two leading scientists found errors and omissions in the WCRF’s review of red meat and cancer.

The review, published in 2007, said people should limit the amount of red meat they ate to 500g (cooked weight) per week.

But Dr Stewart Truswell of the University of Sydney and Dr Dominik Alexander of Exponent said analytical inconsistencies could have contributed in an overestimation of the link.

EBLEX asked the WCRF to acknowledge the mistakes, but claimed the Fund said no comment was needed. EBLEX said it was now considering further action over the report.

The NFU said it was furious that any errors in the report had not been shared with policymakers.

NSA chief executive Peter Morris said policy change needed be made on the back of strong science, rather than studies that lacked sufficient peer review or were “error ridden and not to be trusted”.

But the WCRF accused the organisations of launching an inaccurate and defamatory “co-ordinated attack” against its conclusions, which followed the biggest ever review of evidence ever undertaken.

“The meat lobby accuses WCRF of making mistakes, which the NBA calls ‘apparently tactical’, in analysing the scientific literature and then refusing to admit to these mistakes,” it said in a statement. “This is not true.”

It said any errors in the report were too minor to affect the overall conclusions and those errors had been outlined to the industry and made available on its website.

Its recommendation on the amount of red meat people should eat remained, it added.