The food industry has dismissed a new report which claims that red meat and processed meat cause cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, said on Monday that consumption of processed meat, such as bacon, sausages and ham, causes cancer. It claimed that each 50 grams of processed meat per day increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
It also said that red meat was “probably carcinogenic,” but there was limited evidence.
In response, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said that the report’s conclusions defy both common sense and numerous studies which show no correlation between meat and cancer. The organization also pointed to the many studies confirming the health benefits of balanced diets that include meat.
“Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health,” NAMI said in a statement.
Dr. Betsy Booren, NAMI vice president of Scientific Affairs, argued that IARC had “tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome”.
She added: “Followers of the Mediterranean diet eat double the recommended amount of processed meats. People in countries where the Mediterranean diet is followed, like Spain, Italy and France, have some of the longest lifespans in the world and excellent health.”
Maureen Strong, nutrition manager for the U.K.’s Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, noted that IARC itself had acknowledged that the risk from processed meat remains small.
“There’s no evidence that removing meat from your diet protects against cancer. In fact a major, long-term study by Oxford University has shown no difference in colorectal cancer rates between meat eaters and vegetarians,” she added.