November 02, 2015

ASAS responds to recent WHO report

lean-meat

The ASAS Board of Directors has issued the following statement, November 2, 2015, in response to a recent report about processed meats and red meats by a World Health Organization cancer agency.  

For Immediate Release

ASAS responds to new World Health Organization report that labels meat as a cause of cancer.

Champaign, Ill. (November 2, 2015) — The American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) supports the eating of meat as an important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Recently, the healthfulness of processed meats and red meats came under scrutiny in a new report by a World Health Organization cancer agency. The report, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) 1, directs attention away from the health benefits of red meat in a balanced diet and inflates the likelihood of processed meats and red meats as a cause of cancer.

The ASAS Board of Directors calls several findings of the report into question, most notably how the report classifies processed and red meats.

The report classifies processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans,” and red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” These classifications create misunderstandings from which consumers can draw erroneous conclusions about meat consumption and cancer risk. The report places processed meats under the same classification as smoking tobacco, asbestos, arsenic, pesticides, and diesel engine exhaust. This unintentionally equates risk of cancer from eating processed meats with other substances in that category when, for example, the risk from smoking is many orders of magnitude greater than any risk from eating meat. ASAS notes that of the more than 900 substances evaluated by the WHO cancer agency, only one of these has been listed as “probably not carcinogenic.”

The report ignores numerous studies that show no association between meat and cancer. There are numerous factors that play a role in cancer risk, including diet, lifestyle, and the environment, and it is difficult to separate individual components in the diet from other factors that may be linked to cancer, including smoking and exercise.

The report ignores the many positive benefits of including meat as a part of a balanced diet. Meat is a nutrient-dense food that provides high-quality protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B-12 and other nutrients. The WHO panel did not reach a unanimous consensus but was approved by a majority of the panel.

The ASAS Board of Directors firmly believes the health benefits of eating meat outweigh any negative associations with cancer, and that consuming animal-sourced foods plays an important role in achieving a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet.2

Media Contact:

Kim Schoonmaker

American Society of Animal Science

Scientific Communications Associate

217-356-9050

kims@asas.org

References:

1 International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization, IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat, 26 October 2015.

2 Nutrition and Health Provided by Animal Products, American Society of Animal Science Public Policy statement, updated October 2015.

About the American Society of Animal Science

The American Society of Animal Science fosters the discovery, sharing and application of scientific knowledge concerning the responsible use of animals to enhance human life and well-being. Our members work in agriculture because they love animals and believe feeding our families, friends, and communities is important. For more information visit www.asas.org.