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Meat-cancer links curbing processed meat intakes: Charity survey

By Stephen Daniells , 28-Nov-2008

UK consumers are reducing their consumption of processed meat and meat products following media coverage of a study linking the meats to increased risks of bowel cancer.

According to a World Cancer Research Fund-commissioned YouGov survey, over 10 per cent of people have tried to cut down on processed meat intake. The survey was commissioned one year after the fund published a report that claimed that eating 150g of processed meat a day increased the risk of bowel cancer by 63 per cent.

“It is really encouraging that so many people remember our report and have tried to make lifestyle changes as a result of it,” said Richard Evans, head of communications for WCRF.

“A big part of our work is interpreting the latest scientific research and then giving people the information so they are then be in a position to make informed decisions. This survey shows that if people are told how they can reduce their risk of cancer then many of them will make changes.”

However, others have interpreted the science differently. A recent editorial in the Annals of Oncology by French researchers challenged the WCRF’s report. The French researchers criticized the report’s focus on individual foods as opposed to dietary patterns, and for not highlighting the dangers of smoking.

The American Meat Institute, a trade body, welcomed the editorial.

Media message hitting home

The new survey appears to show that the “wall-to-wall media coverage,” of the WCRF report is leading to changes in consumer habits, says Evans.

YouGov surveyed 2,124 people, and 11 per cent of respondents said that they had tried to cut down on processed meat such as bacon as a result of media coverage.

Amongst these, older people were more likely to have tried to make changes, with 37 per cent of respondents over 55 claiming to have tried to cut down on processed meat, compared to just six per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds.

Moreover, 10 per cent of respondents said they had tried to eat less red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb.

Out with meat, in with fruit and veg

Interestingly, the survey also found increases in fruit and vegetable consumption, with 26 per cent of the survey’s respondents saying they had tried to eat more fruits and vegetables.

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