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Close Look at New Study Reveals Red and Processed Meat Are Healthy Part of a Balanced Diet

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Washington, DC – American Meat Institute Foundation Chief Scientist Betsy Booren, Ph.D., issued the following statement in response to a new study from the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer (EPIC): 

“A new study out of Europe once again is trying to identify a cause and effect relationship using a research approach that won’t permit such conclusions to be made. 

The European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer (EPIC) claims that consuming 160 grams of processed meat per day will cause premature death and says 3.3 percent of all premature deaths could be prevented if processed meat consumption were below 20 grams per day.  Interestingly, EPIC also found that red meat did not increase mortality risk and that a small amount of red meat ‘appeared to be beneficial.’   But all these results are based on data that is typically unreliable as participants are forced to try to remember what they ate days, week and even months before – a challenge for anyone.   Then that data is run through statistical models and is presented as conclusive dietary recommendations for healthy living, when actual medical decisions should be made in consultation with your medical providers.

Regardless, let us do the math for you:  160 grams of processed meat is 5.6 ounces, which we estimate is five times the amount of processed meat consumed, on average, in the U.S.   In fact, 160 grams is an ounce more than the TOTAL fresh and processed meat and poultry women consume in a day and about an ounce less than the TOTAL fresh and processed meat and poultry men consume.  In the U.S., on average, government data indicate that consumers eat 23 grams of hot dogs and deli meats per day.   Americans consume the recommended amount of meat and poultry already, according to federal data.  In fact, it is the only food group consumed in the proper amount.   

In addition, a close look at the data in the study, which the researchers fail to reference, reveals that consuming between 20 and 40 grams of processed meat per day does not increase risk.  It’s only when processed meat consumption reaches very high levels, which may represent a truly imbalanced diet, that increased risk is observed.

While we have significant concerns about the study’s methodology and results, if one chooses to accept the study’s conclusions, Americans can rest assured that their processed meat consumption is, on average, at the approximate level recommended by these researchers and can feel confident that red meat consumed as part of healthy balanced diet offers good nutrition and no increased risk of mortality.  And that’s good news.”




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