Meat industry responds to cancer warnings

27 October 2015 4:10 pm

So the global meat industry is reeling from the World Health Organisation report warning that meat causes cancer. According to the report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) there’s enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer. Red meat gets a spot in group 2A, as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Eating red meat is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer, the IARC says.
All up, it’s saying ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer and cured and processed meats are in the same category as asbestos, alcohol and arsenic.

Not surprisingly, the meat industry has hit back. According to the Financial Times, the North American Meat Institute (Nami) accused the WHO of “dramatic and alarmist over-reach”.

“Red and processed meat are among 940 substances reviewed by IARC found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard’,” said Barry Carpenter, Nami president. “Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by IARC not to cause cancer.”

Betsy Booren, North American Meat Institute vice president of Scientific Affairs, who sat on the IARC, told Global Meat News: “It was clear sitting in the IARC meeting that many of the panellists were aiming for a specific result, despite old, weak, inconsistent, self-reported intake data. They tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome.”

Very much like the response of the tobacco industry in the early years which downplayed the research linking cigarettes to smoking, even carrying out its own research to contradict the findings. Needless to say, some of that research was conducted and published by individuals who had financial connections to the tobacco industry.

The meat industry is powerful and employs many people worldwide. But for its own sake, it needs to come up with a better response.