Cancer Report Draws Industry Criticism

While this week's release of the report "Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective" drew praises from anti-beef activists, beef-industry leaders said the report should be taken with skepticism.

The report, issued by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), contains 10 recommendations. Among them are to limit consumption of energy-dense foods, and limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meats. The report's authors recommend that people limit red meat consumption to 18 oz./week (cooked), or about 2.6 oz./day.

The beef industry's response was blunt. "The WCRF/AICR recommendations about red meat and cancer are unsubstantiated and offer bad advice for consumers," says Mary K. Young, a registered dietitian and vice president of nutrition with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).

Young says an "Assessment of Red Meat and Cancer" by independent scientists shows no evidence that red meat causes cancer. "This comprehensive review evaluated every available epidemiological study on red meat and six types of cancer and concluded there was no causal link. How the WCRF review could come to a different conclusion is perplexing."

According to Randy Huffman, American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation vice president of scientific affairs, the report will give consumers another case of nutrition whiplash. "WCRF's conclusions are extreme, unfounded and out of step with dietary guidelines," he says. Given WCRF's well-known anti-meat bias, Huffman cautioned that the report should be met with skepticism because it oversimplifies the complex issue of cancer, isn't supported by the data and defies common sense.

Huffman says a Harvard School of Public Health analysis three years ago -- the largest study ever done on red meat and colon cancer -- showed no relationship between red meat consumption and cancer. "When this Harvard data showing no relationship between red meat and cancer is coupled with studies that found no association or only weak association between red meat and cancer, we must absolutely dispute WCRF's conclusions," he says.

To see the report, go to