HAMISH McRae's advocacy of a Japanese diet to lower our intake of calories needs qualifying ("Beef scare will improve our food supply", Business, 31 March). Even though the Japanese death rate from cancer of the stomach has been falling during the last 25 years, it is still almost three times greater than ours for men, and almost double ours for women. One of the risk factors is salt, the consumption of which is dropping there because food is now kept fresh in fridges. A diet rich in fish may be one rich in salt. Yellow and green vegetables are having the beneficial effect recorded elsewhere, but as much as 16 per cent of the improvement in stomach cancer death rates has been attributed to screening. The reduction does not imply that there has been a corresponding one in the incidence of stomach cancer itself, witness the fact that the Japanese have developed skills in detecting pre-malignant stomach changes.
R A Weale