The American Meat Institute (AMI) is challenging a recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) linking red and processed meat with an increased risk of bowel cancer.

In response to the report, AMI announced in a news release that WCRF’s recommendations to limit red and processed meat intake should be met with skepticism.  According to AMI, the recommendations are not supported by the full evidence and conflict with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which say that red and processed meat can be a healthy part of balanced diet. 

WCRF’s study, released May 23, examined the links between bowel cancer risk and diet, physical activity and weight, and updated the bowel cancer findings of the WCRF/American Institute for Cancer Research’s (AICR) 2007 Expert Report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of cancer: a Global Perspective.

Professor Alan Jackson, chair of the WCRF/AICR Continuous Update Project Expert Panel, said in a news release that he hopes the review can bring clarity to those who question the strength of the evidence.

“Our review has found strong evidence that many cases of bowel cancer are not inevitable and that people can significantly reduce their risk by making changes to their diet and lifestyle.” Jackson said. “On meat, the clear message that comes out of our report is that red and processed meat increase risk of bowel cancer and that people who want to reduce their risk should consider cutting down the amount they eat.”

AMI Foundation President James H. Hodges disagrees.

 “While WCRF is claiming these studies strengthen their recommendations, in reality, they simply increase the report’s shortcomings,” Hodges said in a new release.  “Adding more weak studies to a weak report does not make a ‘strong, comprehensive and authoritative report’ as they claim.”   

Ten new studies for red and processed meat were added to the 14 studies analyzed as part of the 2007 report. The Panel confirmed that there is convincing evidence that both red and processed meat increase the risk for bowel cancer.

Hodges noted that a close look at the 10 additional studies show no strong evidence of any increased risk of bowel/colorectal cancer.  

 “Given the weak, scientific underpinnings of this report and the fact that Americans are consuming the proper amount of red and processed meats according to government data, Americans should follow common sense, which says a balanced diet with exercise is best,” said AMI   “The headlines on today’s press release are little more than warmed over recommendations from a report that was widely critiqued in 2007.”  

According to the latest government data, Americans consume red and processed meat at levels recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, the basis for our national nutritional policy published by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture.  In fact, the protein group is the only group that is consumed in the proper amount, the guidelines show.

“While recommendations to eat a balanced diet aren’t exciting headline grabbers, they adhere to both science and common sense,” Hodges said.  “The wisest course of action anyone can take is to maintain a healthy body weight, exercise and consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods consistent with our national nutritional policy outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

Meanwhile, WCRF/AICR recommends that people limit meat consumption to 500g (17.6 oz) of red meat each week and avoid processed meat. According to the panel, their weekly recommendation is equivalent to five or six medium portions of roast beef, lamb or pork.