Government experts urging Britons to eat less red meat

Government advisers will publish a report tomorrow recommending people limit their consumption of red meat.

Experts from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition are expected to tell consumers to eat no more than 500g of red or processed meat every week, or 70g a day.

This is the equivalent of three rashers of bacon a day. An average slice of ham is about 23g, a large sausage is 40g and a medium steak is about 145g.

Red meat contains substances that have been linked to bowel cancer.

One compound in particular, haem, which gives red meat its colour, has been shown to damage the lining of the colon in some studies.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommends limiting red meat consumption to 500g a week of cooked weight (about 700g to 750g uncooked).

And it says people should avoid processed meats altogether because of the even higher risk of bowel cancer.

The charity estimated 3,800 cases of bowel cancer could be prevented ever year if everyone ate less than 70g of processed meat a week.

Some 1,900 cases of bowel cancer could also be prevented through cutting red meat consumption to under 70g per week.

Processed meat is generally defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with chemical preservatives added to it.

It is thought this process causes the formation of carcinogens, which can damage cells in the body and allow cancer to develop.

Two rashers of bacon a day throughout life has been linked to a 20% rise in the chance of getting the disease.

The average person has a risk of bowel cancer of five in 100 but this rises to six in 100 if they eat 50g of processed meat a day.

Men in the UK eat an average of nearly 50g of processed meat a day compared with just 24g for women.

Last year, experts from the Harvard School of Public Health in the US found that eating processed meats can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The round-up of 20 studies published worldwide found people who eat processed meats have a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

However, unprocessed red meats, such as beef, pork or lamb, do not raise the risk, the study found.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, a member of the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) on nutrition, which is funded by industry, said: "Given that current intakes, on average, are well within health targets, there is no reason to eat less red meat if you enjoy it.

"The British Nutrition Foundation recently published a review which highlighted that eating red meat in moderation is an important part of a healthy balanced diet.

"It also laid to rest many of the misconceptions about meat and health.

"Lean red meat is a good source of many vital nutrients and, thanks to modern farming methods, is lower than ever in saturated fat and calories, making it suitable for all the family."