By Lynda Williamson
Following a report published in the BMC Medicine journal, the Scottish Green Party has called for a radical shift in our food culture. The report linked the consumption of large quantities of processed meat with the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The extensive study looked at the eating habits of just under half a million people from 10 European countries over an average period of 13 years.
It found that those eating more than 160g of processed meat per day were 44% more likely to die within the 13 year period than those who ate 20g or less.
One of the authors of the report, Dr Sabine Rohrmann explained that:
"High meat consumption, especially processed meat, is associated with a less healthy lifestyle.
"But after adjusting for smoking, obesity and other confounders we think there is a risk of eating processed meat.
"Stopping smoking is more important than cutting meat, but I would recommend people reduce their meat intake."
The Scottish Greens acknowledged that poverty forces many people to buy the cheapest products and have urged food manufacturers to act more responsibly.
Alison Johnstone, Lothian MSP and food spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said:
"Manufacturers have a huge amount of power over our diets and they should be doing more to cut down the amount of salt, fat and additives content of processed meat products. It is not fair for commentators and the Scottish government to encourage people to buy better quality cuts of meat as this excludes large numbers of people who can't afford that option.
"We need a radical shift in our food culture and to tackle head on the poverty that forces families to buy the cheapest option. We should be teaching all of our children to cook tasty meals that don't always have meat as the main component, and doing more to promote active lives. How many of us have the skills our grandparents had when it comes to cooking from a few basic ingredients?"
The British Heart Foundation recommends choosing leaner cuts of meat and healthier cooking methods such as grilling, along with varied protein choices like chicken, fish, beans or lentils.
Dr Rachel Thompson, from the World Cancer Research Fund, said: "This research adds to the body of scientific evidence highlighting the health risks of eating processed meat.
"Our research, published in 2007 and subsequently confirmed in 2011, shows strong evidence that eating processed meat, such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, salami and some sausages, increases the risk of getting bowel cancer."