Vegan doctor group 'misunderstand' meat and cancer link

The AHDB said it is 'worrying' that medical professionals are suggesting something that it is 'completely not true'
The AHDB said it is 'worrying' that medical professionals are suggesting something that it is 'completely not true'

A niche group of medics suggesting hospitals should stop serving sausages and bacon have 'misunderstood' the report they are relying on to back up their claim.

The Plant Based Health Professionals group, run by doctors and medical professionals, has called on the NHS to ban bacon and sausages in hospital canteens over a perceived cancer risk.

The group quoted a 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report, suggesting it showed a person has as much chance of developing cancer if they eat processed meat as they would if they smoked or handled asbestos.

The vegan medical professionals suggested that patients, staff and visitors should not be served these products.

However Maureen Strong, nutritionist with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), said the IARC report looks at 'hazards only' and to suggest otherwise is 'misleading'.

“It is worrying that this small group of medical professionals, who people may look to for advice, are suggesting something that it is completely not true,” she said.

“At best, they have misunderstood the report. At worst, it seems that they are pushing a lifestyle change which could have a negative effect on the health of some people.

“We should be able to expect our hospitals to respect the importance of the totality of scientific evidence to inform policy decisions. To suggest that the IARC report on processed meat implies that it causes cancer is wrong.

Ms Strong added: “IARC merely performed a hazard analysis which in no way proves cause and effect. A banana skin on the ground is a hazard but it does not mean that all banana skins can cause accidents and are, therefore, potentially harmful to health.”

Whilst IARC has placed processed meat in the same hazard analysis category as tobacco smoking and asbestos, WHO does point out that this does not mean they are all equally dangerous, she noted.

It is also worth highlighting that processed meat is in the same hazard analysis category as HRT and contraception pills, both of which are prescribed by doctors and for which there is no suggestion of any change in behaviour.

“NHS administration should take note of this to avoid making ill-informed policy decisions which could mislead the general public,” Ms Strong said.

She added that under IARC definitions, most fresh sausages in the UK would not fall into the category of processed meat.