Four UK agricultural groups—the National Beef Association, the British Pig Executive, the National Sheep Association and the National Farmers' Union—have issued statements suggesting that the World Cancer Research Fund has misled the public with its recommendations on meat consumption.

In its 2007 report on possible links between diet and cancer, the fund recommends that individuals limit their consumption of red meat to 500 grams cooked weight per week and avoid processed meat. The fund says that this recommendation was developed by an independent panel of international scientists who concluded that convincing evidence links the consumption of red and processed meat to colorectal cancer.

According to a press statement by the UK agricultural organizations, other researchers have drawn different conclusions. The statement said that Dr. Stewart Truswell of the University of Sydney, Australia, and Dr. Dominik Alexander of the American scientific consulting firm Exponent have found several errors and omissions in the diet and cancer report.

According to the statement, “Dr. Truswell published a letter in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition detailing his concerns. Dr. Alexander completed a review which identified analytical inconsistencies and data extraction errors in WCRF’s evidence, which could have contributed to an overestimate of the association between eating red meat and the risk of [colorectal cancer]. The conclusion of Dr. Alexander’s review was that ‘there is no conclusive evidence of causal relationship’ between eating meat and [colorectal cancer].”


The industry groups accused the cancer fund of refusing to publicly acknowledge errors in the report or inform the UK Food Standards Agency about potential errors.

In response to the industry statement, the World Cancer Research Fund released its own statement saying, “The UK meat lobby accuses WCRF of making mistakes in analyzing the scientific literature about the link between meat and colorectal cancer and then refusing to admit to these mistakes. This is not true. Any errors in the report were too minor to have affected the overall conclusions.” The fund has created a Web page listing errors it identified in the report and corrections.

Professor Martin Wiseman, project director of the diet and cancer report, said he personally invited the agricultural groups to share any information they had about inconsistencies in the report with the Food Standards Agency.