Meat cancer link is dismissed by MLC

3 October 1997

Meat cancer link is dismissed by MLC

By Shelley Wright

MEAT and Livestock Commission chairman, Don Curry, has dismissed recent reports linking high red meat intakes with an increased risk of colon cancer.

He insisted there was no difference in the incidence of that cancer between meat eaters and vegetarians.

Last week the Committee of Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) advised that people should consume no more than 85g (3oz) of red meat a day in order to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Speaking at the British Veterinary Association congress in Edinburgh, Mr Curry said: "We simply cannot accept the recommendations. It simply isnt true that science supports the case for a link between red meat and colon cancer.

In the balance against COMAs work, you have to put eight significant and recent studies carried out across Europe, none of which finds any evidence of a connection between eating red meat and colon cancer.

"Indeed there appears to be no difference in colon cancer rates between meat eaters and vegetarians." He added that red meat consumption in the UK had fallen by 25% in the past 20 years, yet the incidence of colon cancer had jumped by 20% in the same period.

Greek experience

"The argument that it is diet which is important is supported by other European examples, such as Greece where red meat consumption is higher than the UK, but the incidence of colon cancer is roughly half.

"The difference is that the Greeks eat almost two-and-a-half times as much fruit and vegetables as we do," Mr Curry said.

MLC accepted the need to encourage the UK public to eat a better balanced diet and more fruit and vegetables. "I believe that consumers are sensible enough to make their own minds up whether they should be eating more red meat or less as part of their own balanced diet," he said.

&#8226 The MLC said it was looking at filing a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority after farmers and butchers complained about a Vegetarian Society advert in Wednesdays national papers saying that meat eaters were 40% more likely to develop cancer than vegetarians.

Don Curry – red meat plays an important part in a balanced diet.

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