Cancer: meat manufacturers have trouble digesting WHO accusations

Cancer: meat manufacturers have trouble digesting WHO accusations

General outcry among meat professionals, from France to the United States via Brazil. The industrialists of the major producing countries are responding with arguments, Monday, October 26, after the publication of an international study accusing red meat and charcuterie of increasing the risk of cancer.

Based on more than 800 studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), has categorized processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans”. Red meats have been classified as “probably carcinogenic”.

In the United States, the world’s largest producer of beef, professionals in the sector have been preparing their weapons for weeks, offering analyzes even before the publication of the IARC study. “It’s clear” that of “numerous” evaluation authors “tweaked the data to obtain a very precise result”, responded the North American Meat Institute.

The giants of the sector point out that meat is only one of some 940 products, of the most diverse, classified as probably carcinogenic by the specialized agency of the WHO. “If we just stuck to the list (…) of the IARC, it would be clear that the simple fact of living on Earth would be a risk of cancer”, hammers the association of American meat processors.

In Europe as in the United States, we judge “inappropriate” attribute an increased risk of cancer to a single factor. “It’s a very complex topic that can depend on a combination of many other factors like age, genetics, diet, environment and lifestyle,” details the EU Meat Processing Industries Liaison Centre.

Another argument taken up in unison: the nutritional value of meat. In Brazil, the world’s second largest beef producer, industrial exporters insist on “the nutritional benefits to human health of consuming red meat and other proteins”. Even though “excessive consumption of meat is certainly not to be promoted”, it is possible to “enjoy yourself and have a nutritional balance” in meals combining meat and vegetables, echoes Xavier Beulin, the president of the FNSEA, the first French agricultural union.

In France, the leading European producer of beef, the interprofessional association Interbev and the federation of butchers insist on the problem of quantities. According to the study, the risk of colorectal cancer could increase by 17% for each 100 gram serving of meat consumed per day, and by 18% for each 50 gram serving of deli meats. However, the average consumption in France is 52.5 grams/day/inhabitant, and 35 grams for charcuterie.

“There’s nothing new. It is the compilation of a number of studies, without paying enough attention to the quantities consumed”, according to Robert Volut, the president of the French Federation of Industrial Butchers-Caterers.

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