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4. Confusion still reigns....

There’s no let up in the media fascination with every twist and turn in the public debate about nutrition and health. Meat continues to receive some negative coverage but recently this has been more frequently balanced, with reminders that it can also provide a valuable source of essential nutrients. In recent months, concerns about the levels of sugar, salt and ‘transfats’ in many food and drink products have moved to centre stage.

It continues to be a case of ‘win some, lose some’ for the meat industry’s recent meat industry media coverage.

Confusion regarding benefits of eating meat.

A Daily Mail article recently highlighted that a significant proportion of young girls and women had low iron intakes and red meat was ideally placed to provide a vital source of haem iron to counteract lack of energy and tiredness. The article included a contribution from Meat Advisory Panel spokesperson, Dr Carrie Ruxton.

Via the Daily Mail and local press (Norwich Evening News), we also learned of new research published by the University of East Anglia, highlighting the nutritional benefits of products high in protein and amino acids, such as meat and fish, in lowering risk of cardiovascular disease among women.

No such luck for men, however, as the Daily Mail and Telegraph reported new research from the US (Harvard School of Public Health), suggesting that consumption of meat had an adverse effect on male libido and fertility.

Eyebrows were raised in the farming and livestock industries at the recent news of the appointment of a vegan as new Shadow DEFRA Secretary. Kerry McCarthy gave an interview to Viva Life magazine in the spring in which she says “I really believe that meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco with public campaigns to stop people eating it.”

Sugar, salt and fat

However, more prominent health and nutrition themes recently concerned sugar and the levels of salt and ‘transfats’ in processed foods.

Jamie Oliver weighed into the sugar debate and a surcharge of 10p was added to all ‘sugary drinks’ sold in his restaurants. A new campaign, 'Jamie's Sugar Rush', called for the introduction of a tax on sugary drinks of 20p per litre or 7p per 330ml can. The petition attracted nearly 150,000 signatures but produced the following official response: “The Government has no plans to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The Government will announce its plans for tackling childhood obesity by the end of the year.”

‘Jamie’s Sugar Rush’.

Needless to say, Jamie’s campaigning efforts received short shrift from the food industry, as articulated in the press release issued by the Food & Drink Federation. 

The Grocer reported on new research, based on analysis of statistics from the government sponsored National Diet & Nutrition Survey. The study was highlighted by the Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) and it suggested a link between higher consumption of salt and the risk of incidence of obesity.

Concerns about the wide use of ‘transfats’ (hydrogenated vegetable oils) in some processed foods such as margarines, pastries and fried products have been rising in recent years. Several countries, including Denmark, have either banned or severely curtailed their use.

Canadian research, published in the British Medical Journal, suggested that high consumption of ‘transfats’ presented a significantly greater risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes and Type 2 diabetes, compared to a much lower risk associated with consumption of saturated fats.

And finally …..did you know that the Top 3 highest meat consuming countries in the world are Australia, Israel and the US, according to data published by the OECD for 2014.

EU consumers did not make the Top 10. No figures were published by individual Member States but other data sources suggest that UK consumption is below the EU average.

World’s most carnivorous countries according to OECD.