Top butcher blasts meat scare report as 'irresponsible'
Meat enterpreneur Peter Hannan has branded as "irresponsible" a World Health Organisation (WHO) report which claims that eating processed meat is as bad for you as cigarettes.
Mr Hannan also said the report was unfair and prompted "sensationalist" headlines.
"The generalisations were very unfair and very unspecific," said Mr Hannan, managing director of Moira-based Hannan Meats.
"The report claims that bacon is bad for you - but what type of bacon?
"There are 40 different types, from the very pure, mildly-cured - which is minimally-processed and has very few additives - to poor quality types which may be pumped with up to 30% of added ingredients.
"You have to be specific when making statements like this. It can be very irresponsible to make generalised statements claiming all types of a certain food are bad for your health."
The report, released on Monday, claims that eating 50g of processed meat a day - less than two slices of bacon, or a single sausage - can increase the chance of developing bowel cancer by 18%. The "carcinogenic to humans'' classification given to processed meat is the highest of five possible rankings, shared with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes.
"Thankfully, more and more people are becoming aware that it's eating specific foods in moderation and the quality of food that is important for good health," said Mr Hannan.
"Northern Ireland meat and the products made from it are of the highest standards and are as good as meat gets."
Colin Smith, industry development manager at the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC), said: "The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - The WHO's source for information - isn't saying eating processed meat as part of a balanced diet causes cancer. No single food causes cancer. IARC itself has said that the risk from processed meat remains small.
"The government looked at the same evidence in 2010 and recommended people eat no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day: and that's exactly what the vast majority of us are doing.
"This advice is not changing. IARC's findings suggest that eating 50g of processed meat brings a small increase in risk. However average consumption of processed meat in the UK is just 17g per day. People would need to eat three times their current levels to increase their risk."