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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Washington, DC – The American Meat Institute (AMI) today said it agrees with the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) that maintaining an optimal weight is key to good health, but said that meat products are a key part of a healthy, balanced diet and can actually help in weight control.

“Meat products are part of a healthy, balanced diet and studies show they actually provide a sense of satisfaction and fullness that can help with weight control,” said AMI Foundation President James H. Hodges.  “Just as financial experts say diversify your investments to reap the maximum benefits, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines say to eat a balanced diet that includes lean meat. In this way, you derive a wide array of nutrients from many different sources. It’s the best return on a nutritional investment you can get.”

Hodges expressed strong concerns that WCRF’s Public Policy report and its earlier 2007 report includes errors, omissions and internal contradictions.  AMIF has alerted WCRF that the report includes these issues and has urged WCRF to review the entire report again given the problems in the meat sections alone.

“Recognizing the serious methodological problems in the original 2007 report, any public policy recommendations based upon the 2007 report must be called into question,” Hodges said.

 For example, the 2007 report’s section on colon cancer is based upon a massive, 2,000 -page systematic literature review (SLR) done by a group centered in a European university.  After analyzing the full body of work the SLR includes the following statement:  "Overall, the mechanisms explaining the data [linking meat intake and colorectal cancer] are far from plausible biological mechanisms."  Despite this emphatic declaration, the 2007 WCRF report concluded that there is “convincing evidence” of a link between red meat and colon cancer.

The report also didn’t consider one of the largest studies ever done on red meat and colon cancer -- a 2004 Harvard School of Public Health analysis involving more than 725,000 men and women and presented at the 2004 American Association for Cancer Research Conference. This study, “Meat and fat intake and colorectal cancer risk: A pooled analysis of 14 prospective studies,” showed no relationship between red and processed meat and colon cancer. In fact, this federally funded study used what is considered perhaps the most reliable approach to analyzing relationships: pooling original data together and analyzing it.   

Similarly, the WCRF report includes studies that have been misclassified into the wrong groups of evidence, as well as mathematical errors that cause the risk levels identified to be grossly overstated. 

The meat industry is not alone in its view of this report’s inherent problems.  In 2008, Peter Boyle, Ph.D., Phillippe Autier, M.D., and Paolo Boffetta, M.D., Ph.D., of the United Nations’ International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) wrote a highly critical editorial in the Annals of Oncology.  In it, they said, "The substantial review of the evidence in the WCRF report demonstrates that there is no discernible association between many forms of cancer and specific dietary practices. There are still some very interesting hypotheses to pursue, such as the value of an approach on the basis of the food patterns rather than individual foods and nutrients, but the cupboard is remarkably bare... In view of the fragile grounds on which the conclusions of WCRF report on diet and cancer are based on, the information to the media should have been more cautious."

Also, in December 2008, IARC published a major world cancer report (http://www.iarc.fr/), noting that they had high “expectations that epidemiological studies would discover the dietary habits associated with increased or decreased risk of cancer.”  Those expectations were not realized, IARC wrote in the report:  “Results from large prospective cohort studies and randomized trials provided evidence that apart from some specific cancers (e.g., stomach cancer), diet accounted for at best a minority of cancers. In particular, intakes of fat, fruit and vegetables and of meat were either not associated or only slightly associated with colorectal, breast and prostate cancer occurrence.”

More recently, in the latest issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Arthur Stewart Truswell, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney Human Nutrition Unit, published a letter in which he wrote, “I have found that there are omissions and errors in its most controversial section, which discussed red meat and colon cancer…It is not clear who among the hundreds of names at the front of the report was responsible for pages 120-121. The evidence here is incomplete, inaccurate…”.

Hodges said that the Institute will continue to press WCRF to revisit and revise their reports.  “It is just inconceivable that this organization is aware of these mistakes that have been pointed out by leading scientists and yet they proceeded with a public policy crusade.  Fortunately, we are confident that common sense will prevail among policymakers and consumers.”

For more information, visit http://www.meatsafety.org/



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