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Big meat-eaters advised to cut down

The Department of Health has issued a warning that eating too much red meat may be linked to bowel cancer.

The advice follows the publication of a new report, from the independent expert Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which reviewed the evidence on the links between red meat (beef, lamb and pork) and processed meat (ham, bacon, luncheon meat, corned beef, salami, pâté, sausages and burgers) and bowel cancer.

It concludes that red and processed meat probably increases the risk of bowel cancer and that people who eat around 90g or more a day should consider cutting down to reduce their risk. The Department advises cutting down to the UK average of 70g a day. 

Men are at particular risk - the Department says that 42% of men eat on average 90g a day or more of red meat (compared to 12% of women).

Examples of a 70g portion of meat are:

  • One medium portion Shepherds Pie and a rasher of bacon;
  • two standard beef burgers;
  • six slices of salami;
  • one lamb chop;
  • two slices of roast lamb, beef or pork; or
  • three slices of ham

This is still a lot of meat and most of us could cut down a lot more - have meat-free days, eat more fish instead.

'Advice worth a few sausages'

The MHF are backing the campaign. MHF CEO Peter Baker said: 'Men who enjoy regular breakfast fry-ups or roast beef dinners may be surprised to learn that eating too much red or processed meat might increase their risk of bowel cancer.

'Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. Many men could be putting themselves at increased risk as they tend to eat more red and processed meat than women.

'We're not saying men can't occasionally enjoy a bacon sandwich or some sausages for breakfast - but the evidence tells us we need to think about cutting down on how much red and processed meat we're eating. This is a health benefit surely worth giving up a few sausages for.'

The Department of Health is not advising you to give up meat. Good quality meat remains a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc, and B vitamins. It is also one of the main sources of vitamin B12, which is only found in foods from animals, such as meat and milk.

Government advice is to consume some meat and/or meat products, or other sources of protein, as part of a healthy balanced diet. Tips for choosing healthier meat and meat products include choosing lower fat versions: meat with the fat cut off, leaner mince, less processed meat and more fresh.


Page created on February 25th, 2011

Page updated on February 25th, 2011