Shopping: Red-meat warning fails to put off the young

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The Independent Online
Much of the British public has already taken on board health guidelines about meat consumption, according to a new survey. But many consumers were loath to act on the latest Government warning, Jojo Moyes and Amanda Kelly discovered.

Young men have the highest daily consumption of red meat, a survey showed yesterday, as consumers struggled to interpret a controversial Government warning that too much can cause cancer. Eighty-six per cent of consumers recognised at least one health problem associated with eating a lot of red meat. Seventy per cent cited cholesterol, not cancer, as their main health concern, the survey, by NOP for meat alternative manufacturers Quorn, found.

But while most Britons are substituting red meat with white meat, fish and other alternatives, 9 per cent of 15-24- year-olds eat red meat daily. Men were three times more likely to eat red meat every day than women, the report said. The survey of 1,000 adults aged over 15 found 59 per cent claimed they had cut down on red meat to reduce the amount of fat in their diet, while 66 per cent said they preferred alternatives such as white meat, fish or Quorn.

While the young are credited with being more aware of the need for a healthy diet than their elders, the lowest levels of meat eating occurred in the 35-44 age group, with only 3 per cent eating meat every day. More than half said they had reduced their intake on health grounds. Most reluctant to cut down on red meat consumption were the 23-35-year-olds. with 59 per cent failing to reduce amounts. Healthy-eating options had been more widely accepted by women (56 per cent), who were more likely to have cut down their meat consumption compared to men (41 per cent).

Health department guidelines said anyone eating 90g or more of red meat a day was at increased risk of colon cancer. The advice was based on a report from the Committee on Medical Aspects of food policy. The warning provoked a backlash from the meat industry, which said the message was "unscientific". At the British Veterinary Association's annual conference in Edinburgh, Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Don Curry said: "It simply isn't true that science supports the case for a link between red meat and colon cancer. (There are) eight significant and recent studies carried out across Europe, none of which finds any evidence of a connection between eating red meat and colon cancer."