Australians in the red meat industry have joined the global backlash against the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) report for linking red meat with cancer. The report has linked 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.
It 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.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) said the World Cancer Research Fund report was "unfounded".
David Palmer, the MLA's managing director, said that the research didn't 'make sense'.
"The report's focus on fresh red meat doesn't make sense," New.com.au quoted him, as saying.
"Red meat consumption has fallen by about 20 per cent over the last 20 years, yet bowel cancer rates have risen some six per cent during this time."
Mr Palmer added that Aussies should be cautious about following the report's recommendation to reduce fresh red meat consumption.
"It is very important that a sense of balance, perspective and common sense prevails when looking at the fresh red meat elements of this WCRF report," he said.
"In fact, Australians on average are consuming only 460 grams of fresh meat a week, which is less than the 500 grams a week being recommended by WCRF in their report."
The backlash started soon after the story broke, with a spokeswoman for NFU Scotland complaining 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 ... 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.