A farmer has used the latest attack on red meat to call on the Government to address issues with drinking and smoking if it wants to see a healthier population.
New research from the World Cancer Research Fund said people who stuck to NHS guidelines on red and processed meat consumption still increased their risk of bowel cancer by a fifth compared with those who ate very small amounts.
The Department of Health said that while meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, people should cut their intake of red and processed meat to about 70g per day, which is the average daily consumption in the UK.
Ayrshire beef and sheep farmer and NFU Scotland livestock committee chairman Jimmy Ireland said: “When people take the time to look beyond the sensationalist headlines, the facts remain that health and dietary experts consistently agree that including meat, dairy, eggs, fruit, cereals and vegetables in a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to ensure you are getting all the necessary energy, protein, fibre, vitamins and key minerals, including iron and calcium.
“In the best interests of consumers, encouraging the adoption of balanced diets, more regular exercise and tackling problems around alcohol and smoking must be the focus for Government and policy-makers.”
The study also showed people who had a high intake of fibre from bread and breakfast cereals lowered their risk of bowel cancer by 14 per cent.
Cancer Research UK’s expert in diet and cancer, Professor Tim Key, who co-authored the study, said: “There is substantial evidence that red and processed meat are linked to bowel cancer, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic.
"Most previous research looked at people in the 1990s or earlier, and diets have changed significantly since then, so our study gives a more up-to-date insight that is relevant to meat consumption today.”
The 2015 WHO study said there was enough evidence to rank processed meats as Group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer.
The report added red meats were ‘probably carcinogenic’ but there was limited evidence.