A dietitian has slammed the British Dietetic Association (BDA) for its latest policy paper, which advocated a UK-wide reduction of red meat.
In a letter to the BDA’s chief executive, Dr Carrie Ruxton called on the association to reappoint its policy authors to ensure they were ‘completely balanced and objective’ going forward after the paper was led by a dietitian who prominently campaigned for a vegan diet.
The author used the BDA’s Sustainable Diets policy, which influences Government health policy, to call for red and processed meat in the UK diet to ‘be replaced by appropriate plant-based proteins such as beans and pulses’.
But Dr Ruxton warned the blanket ‘eat less meat’ message did not reflect the needs of the population and failed to consider red meat intakes were already below the 70g a day average recommended by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
She said: “To me, this is a major conflict of interest.
“After all, what would other dietitians say if I, as a member of the meat advisory panel, had written the policy?
“Quite rightly, this would not be acceptable.”
Dr Ruxton said the issue predominantly surrounded health concerns of females at risk of inadequate iron and zinc intakes.
“Sustainable eating should not be at the expenses of a healthy balanced diet. Many meat alternatives, such as beans and pulses, do not contain the full range of proteins for optimal health and are low in iron and zinc,” she added.
James Wilde, AHDB head of PR, backed Dr Ruxton and said the UK should instead be championed as one of the most sustainable places in the world to produce meat.
He said: “It is disappointing an influential organisation such as the BDA has clearly gone down a road which does not look to be balanced.
“We work together with colleagues across the world to ensure the right messages of meat are put out.”
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) stands by its evidence based sustainable diets policy statement and rejects any claim that the policy’s authors were biased. The BDA recognises that sustainability is a rapidly developing area and one where there are differing opinions, so welcomed a wide range of views when drafting the statement.
Ursula Arens was one of six BDA members who formed the policy working group. She said: “This policy paper was carefully created by a diverse group of BDA members. Not only were there six on the working group but we had some two dozen members who offered views during its development. We also had input from Public Health England, as well as industry feedback from the dairy and bottled water industries.
“Once drafted, BDA’s governing council had the final say on the document, as with all our policy statements. This statement is not designed to promote a vegan or even vegetarian diet, and recommends reducing - not removing - red and processed meat due to their significant environmental impact.
“It recognises the need to take account of intakes of iron, zinc and other minerals when reducing meat intake, and also continues to recommend eating fish and dairy. Hardly recommending a population-wide vegan diet.”
The BDA’s position on reducing red and processed meat was completely in line with Public Health England’s own advice as contained within the Eatwell Guide. While we recognise that the figure of 70g of red and processed meat is described within SACN’s review (on which PHE’s advice is based), it is set as an upper limit, rather than a specific recommended daily amount.
As with all BDA policy statements, the sustainable diets policy will remain ‘live' and subject to review as new evidence and information becomes available. The BDA is currently working on a toolkit for our members which will explore the complex area of dietary and environmental sustainability in more detail.