Letter: Meat and cancer

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Sir: As one whose livelihood is producing beef you might expect me to be unhappy with the Coma and WCRF reports on diet and cancer (report, 26 September). The emphasis on a balanced diet is sound, but it seems improbable that red meat is intrinsically carcinogenic. Red meat consumption in the UK has been falling while digestive cancers have increased.

This indicates a variable which has not been identified. The most likely candidate - the way meat is produced. Does anyone believe there is no difference for health or disease between meat from free-range grass-fed animals and those reared indoors on high-protein, low fibre diets containing, for example, dried poultry manure, solvent-extracted soya, kiln dust and a range of antibiotic and other additives? If diet affects health in us it must do so in animals too.

Of the many aspects which should be studied, the use of hormone growth promoters is perhaps the most obvious. Banned in Europe in 1986, but with some continuing illegal use, they are universally used in many countries where studies appear to show a cancer link. Nine EU scientists appointed to help fight moves to reintroduce US hormone-implanted beef into Europe have concluded that such hormones can be carcinogenic.

The health, welfare and environmental problems of intensive poultry production are well known and it would be a tragic irony if consumption of this increased yet again at the expense of organic beef production.


Broadway, Worcestershire