Peter Fricker from the Vancouver Humane Society noticed an interesting contrast a few weeks ago.
First the UK's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommended people aim to consume less than 70g per day of red and processed meat. Their Department of Health agreed, and indeed, their national dietary recommendations now include, aiming for a maximum of 70g daily.
They based their recommendations on their take of the medical evidence, which was by no means slam-dunk conclusive, but was suggestive enough to them (and me for what it's worth), to recommend limits.
Contrast those recommendations with these two recent Canadian announcements.
1. Agriculture ministers announce 19 pilot projects for enhanced meat trade
"Farmers and processors are proud of their safe, high quality meat and we're working together to help them sell their steaks or chops to their provincial neighbours," federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz stated in a release following Friday's ministerial meeting. "Breaking down trade barriers at home and abroad will yield greater returns for our meat industry and benefit all Canadians."and,
2. Canada Government help for giant beef processor
"Canada's biggest domestically-owned beef packing firm will get $1.6 million in government grants toward new systems expected to help double its ground beef processing capacity at Brooks, Alta"So while the UK Government urges its citizens to scale back on their red and processed meat consumption, Canada extends helping hands (and taxpayer money) to encourage growth in meat sales, production and consumption.
And Health Canada's recommendation? 150-225g daily.
How's that possible? It's the same pot of evidence.
It's possible because nutritional epidemiology isn't mathematics. There isn't one obviously right answer and therefore it's always up for interpretation and interpretation can be influenced by a whole slew of things.
Take Canada for instance. Do you think the facts that Canada's the 6th largest beef exporter in the world and that beef's a $23 billion industry here could have anything to do with our Government's meat generosity?
Too bad nutrition's not as clear cut a science as we all wish it could be, and too bad that politics and industry will always be a huge influence on the recommendations of Health Canada - a non-arms length arm of Government.