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Statement in Response to CSPI Petition for Warning Labels on Safe, Nutritious, USDA-Inspected Meat Products

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Attribute Statement to North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter

Washington, D.C. -  "An alarmist, sensational petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today seeking warning labels on safe, nutritious and USDA-inspected meat products is the most recent example of the scare tactics that have earned the group the nickname 'the food police.' The petition ignores numerous studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer and many more studies showing the many health benefits of balanced diets that include meat. Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health.

The World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer vote that CSPI cited as evidence - a vote that was not unanimous - is taken badly out of context. After the vote, the WHO worked to reassure consumers saying there were 'shortcomings' with IARC's classifications which allowed the results to be 'misinterpreted.' WHO spokesperson Gregory Härtl told the Irish Times , 'Eat healthily means eating a balanced diet, too much of anything is not good.'"

Many more studies find no relationship between meat and colon cancer. USDA's own scientist and member of the IARC panel, upon which the petition largely relies, David Klurfeld, Ph.D., published a paper in 2015 in which he cautioned against making alarmist claims like CSPI's given the full body of research. He concluded, "Moderate intake of a variety of foods that are enjoyed by people remains the best dietary advice."

Americans, with very few exceptions, are consuming the recommended amount of meat and poultry, according to federal data. Notably, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee found that followers of the widely acclaimed Mediterranean diet eat twice as many processed meats as people who follow the USDA recommended pattern. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines confirm that moderate consumption of processed meat can be part of a healthy eating pattern, saying, "For those who eat animal products, the recommendation for the protein foods subgroup of meats, poultry, and eggs can be met by consuming a variety of lean meats, lean poultry, and eggs. Choices within these eating patterns may include processed meats and processed poultry as long as the resulting eating pattern is within limits for sodium, calories from saturated fats and added sugars, and total calories."

Curiously, but not surprisingly, seven of the 12 researchers who signed a letter from CSPI to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack supporting the petition are from the Harvard School of Public Health - the very school that runs a massive research study called The Pooling Project and that failed to publish the complete findings from the largest study ever done on red and processed meat and color cancer. That study of 725,000 people concluded that the data do not support a link between meat consumption and colon cancer. The study was presented at a 2004 conference but the findings were never released or published in a journal. So troubling is this failure to publish that two Senators in 2007 wrote to the Health and Human Services Secretary urging it be published given its use of federal monies, yet it has never appeared in a journal or on the pooling project web site that houses other related studies."

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