The red meat industry has come together to protest against the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) Report, which links red and processed meat to a range of common cancers including breast, bowel and pancreatic cancer.
The report, based on studies dating back to the 1960s, says that there is "convincing" evidence that red meat and processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami and sausages increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
AdvertisementIt recommends that people should limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat altogether. It also advises against eating more than 6 grams of salt per day.
However the red meat producers said that though they value research on health issues, they believe that the "odd hamburger" or bacon sandwich was not harmful to health.
They also expressed "huge concern" about the potential impact of the report and warned that to stop eating red meat, a good source of protein as well as some minerals and vitamins, could cause problems with a lack of iron in the diet.
In response to the reports' recommendation of avoiding red meat altogether, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) cited the reaction by other scientists, including world-leading cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora, who said, "red meat and bacon in moderation will do us no harm".
A spokeswoman for NFU Scotland complained of "an awful lot of cancer scare stories".
"The odd hamburger is fine, but if you live on a diet of junk food ... the message has been clear for years and years. I think for people who are eating too much of a particular type of food, if you have bacon sandwiches every day for lunch or pepperami at every single juncture," the Scotsman quoted the spokeswoman, as saying.
"We'd recommend people eat the best quality. As far as we're concerned [this report] doesn't change much from the current guidelines. If you eat fresh, good-quality food, you will be absolutely fine," she added.
A spokeswoman for QMS said: "I would point to the evidence coming from the broad scientific community to show that what consumers should do is eat a balanced diet."
"We believe there is a role for these foods as part of a balanced diet and there are plenty of nutritionists and scientists who would agree with that," she added.
She further said that it "obviously would be a huge concern", if the public stopped eating processed food or red meat as a whole.
"Forty per cent of women in the UK currently have too little iron. In that situation, one would imagine, would only get worse if red meat was cut from their diet," she said.
For the report, a panel of 21 world experts spent five years evaluating what increases the risk of cancer and what decreases it based on an in-depth analysis of 7,000 cancer studies from around the world dating back to the 1960s.