Massive new study shows EU should act on red meat to save lives and costs

Overwhelming new evidence on how over-consumption of red and processed meats can cause premature death and disease means the European Commission should act now, says EuroHealthNet, the organisation representing health promotion bodies in Europe.

The data, published by the eminent Harvard School of Public Health, comes from a study of over 120,000 people who were tracked for nearly 30 years. The evidence, which has already been backed as authoritative by doctors and nutritionists, shows that:

  • Two slices of processed ham or bacon a day raises the risk of dying from heart disease and cancers by 20 per cent;
  • Between 7 -9 per cent of deaths could be if red and processed meat consumption is cut.
  • Switching from red meat to poultry, fish, vegetables and pulses brings major health benefits.

The results add to previous large scale studies showing similar outcomes.

EuroHealthNet is currently co-organising with the World Health Organisation a Europe-wide consultation on a new public health action plan for all states in the continent. Director Clive Needle said today:

This study has a hugely serious implication for all of us and especially the political leaders of Europe. It means that many citizens are, often unknowingly, exposing themselves to risk of early death and disease because red and processed meats are being over-marketed and supported by national and European funds. The chance to stop that is now, when the new Common Agricultural Policy is being debated by ministers and MEPs. Simply having voluntary discussions in well-meaning bodies like the EU Platform on Diet is not good enough. I call on President Barroso and his colleagues, with support from Ministers and MEPs, to intervene urgently and initiate an evidence-based legislative policy of promoting more consumption of fruits and vegetables and ending support for red meat production, across Europe and in its global trade. It can create jobs by switching production and encouraging public knowledge and behaviour. At a time when public budgets are facing huge cuts, that switch can quickly reduce pressures on health systems - and save massive national costs and burdens of disease. But more than that, health for all is an asset and wellbeing is a prime objective of the EU. This is about saving lives. There is no longer any excuse not to act by any politician or official.

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EuroHealthNet is supporting Europe wide and UN actions to tackle non-communicable diseases together with the EU, WHO, and other policy making institutions.