Meat industry dismisses EU cancer study

The meat industry has played down an EU study that reveals a strong link between high red meat consumption and cases of bowel cancer

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By  Robbie Greenfield Published  June 16, 2005

The meat industry has dismissed a European report that supports previous findings that red and processed meat consumption increases the risk of bowel cancer. EU research that spanned 10 countries and tracked nearly half a million consumers concluded that risk increases by 49% per 100 grams of daily consumed red meat, primarily beef, lamb, pork and veal, while the industry claims that the study fails to prove cause and effect. “The absolute risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer within ten years for a study subject aged 50 years was 1.71% for the highest category of red meat intake and 1.28% for the lowest category,” reported the researchers, based in academic institutions across Europe. Defending its industry, the American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) immediately rejected the study and its findings, accusing the study of being epidemiological, “which means it does not prove cause,” the industry body said in a statement recently. AMIF quoted Ernst Wydner, an epidemiologist who was skeptical about the risks. “We should not rush to judgement about causative implication when in fact the word ‘association’ ought to be used,” Wydner said. The most important fact, according to AMIF, is that a larger body of evidence has shown processed meats are a healthy part of a balanced diet. However, researchers for the project, named the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), found that the risk of developing bowel cancer was a third higher for those who regularly ate over two 80g portions of red or processed meat a day, compared to those who consumed less than one a week.

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