Leading organisations in the Scottish red meat industry have collectively voiced their concern about unbalanced and misleading media coverage over recent days regarding processed meat.
The organisations, including Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) and the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Associations (SFMTA), are urging the press to avoid alarmist reporting on meat and health.
The move by the organisations follows several articles in the Scottish media relating to processed meat and health, with a particular focus on school meals.
Dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton of the Meat Advisory Panel said:
“It is widely acknowledged that children should have a balanced diet. It is also widely recognised that salty or higher fat options, including some processed meats, should be eaten in moderation with preference given to lean red meats which provide a range of vitamins, minerals and high-quality protein.”
However, Dr Ruxton pointed out the health evidence relating to nitrates and nitrites in processed meat is not strong enough to completely ban foods containing these from school meals.
“Preservatives are already strictly controlled by EU regulations and perform an important safety function, helping to protect people from food poisoning bacteria. Therefore, a balance needs to be struck,” she added.
Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), added:
“QMS works hard to support the Scottish Government’s aims to raise the profile of a healthy diet and it is disappointing to see this kind of coverage suggesting a much higher risk than actually exists.
“This sort of reporting also distracts attention from some of the main threats to human health which could make a huge difference, including low levels of physical exercise and lack of intake of fruit and vegetables.”
Mr Clarke also pointed out that innovation is something the red meat industry takes pride in and it would, he said, continue to seek and embrace alternatives to the traditional curing techniques used to ensure the safety of preserved meat.
And he pointed out that, contrary to some reports, British-style sausages do not contain nitrates or nitrites, unlike continental-style sausages and cured meats.
The International Authority for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recognised that no one food group causes cancer, pointed out Mr Clarke.
“Consumers should eat a balanced diet, including red meat and plenty of fruit and vegetables, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“The safe consumption levels of nitrates and nitrites were set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2017.
“EFSA established that consumer exposure to nitrates and nitrites, solely from food additives, was less than 5 per cent of the overall exposure in food and did not exceed the safe levels. These salts are also found in high concentration in certain vegetables and through contamination of water.”