IARC Meat Vote Dramatic and Alarmist, Says Dr. Booren

The international meat industry is sizzling over a report from World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that claims processed meats such as sausage are carcinogenic, while red meat in general is deemed probably a carcinogen.

The Washington, DC-headquartered North American Meat Institute (NAMI) insists that a vote by an IARC Monograph panel classifying red and processed meat as cancer “hazards” defies both common sense and numerous studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer, and other studies pointing out the health benefits of balanced diets that include meat. Scientific evidence, it maintains, 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.

Dr Betsy BoorenDr. Betsy Booren, NAMI’s vice president of scientific affairs.“It was clear sitting in the IARC meeting that many of the panelists were aiming for a specific result despite old, weak, inconsistent, self-reported intake data,” said Betsy Booren, Ph.D., NAMI’s vice president of scientific affairs. “They tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome.”

She added: “Red and processed meat are among 940 agents reviewed by IARC and found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard.’ Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by IARC not to cause cancer.

“IARC says you can enjoy your yoga class, but don’t breathe air (Class I carcinogen), sit near a sun-filled window (Class I), apply aloe vera (Class 2B) if you get a sunburn, drink wine or coffee (Class I and Class 2B), or eat grilled food (Class 2A). And if you are a hairdresser or do shift work (both Class 2A), you should seek a new career.”

IARC’s panel was given the basic task of looking at hazards that meat could pose at some level, under some circumstance, but was not asked to consider any off-setting benefits, like the nutrition that meat delivers or the implications of drastically reducing or removing meat from the diet altogether.

“Followers of the Mediterranean diet eat double the recommended amount of processed meats. People in countries where the Mediterranean diet is followed, like Spain, Italy and France, have some of the longest life spans in the world and excellent health,” said Dr. Booren.

She went on to conclude: “IARC’s decision simply cannot be applied to people’s health because it considers just one piece of the health puzzle: theoretical hazards. Risks and benefits must be considered together before telling people what to eat, drink, drive, breathe, or where to work.”

About NAMI
The North American Meat Institute is a trade association representing the meat and poultry industry. Formed from the 2015 merger of the American Meat Institute (AMI) and North American Meat Association (NAMA), the organization has a century-long history and provides essential member services including legislative, regulatory, scientific, and international and public affairs representation. Its mission is to shape a public policy environment in which the meat and poultry industry can produce wholesome products safely, efficiently and profitably. Together, the Institute’s members supply the vast majority of US beef, pork, lamb and poultry and the equipment, ingredients and services needed for production of high quality meats.