Friday, February 25, 2011

Plain red meat?

Talk about plain speaking - the British government's campaign to shock, or nudge, the people into taking action against cancer got off to a bad start.

90g of red meat a day is dangerous, we were told. But how much is 90g? Who measures their meat in grammes when they eat?

If you go to a cheap restaurant you can buy steaks of six ounces, eight ounces, ten ounces even more. Surely a small steak is okay?

We posted a calculator on this blog sometime ago and we are able to establish rapidly that 90g is no more than a little over 3.5 ounces. The recommended daily limit of 70g is just 2.5 ounces.

No wonder the government press release did not mention steak. It did mention two beefburgers or a single lamb chop. Was it too much to ask that somebody could do the conversion into the traditional British measurement? After all there is not a lot that is more traditional than British roast beef.

As for daily limits, they do not really help when they are so small. My guess is that the experts could also agree a weekly limit . But if they can, they haven't told us. Now that would allow you to eat a 14oz steak, two sausages and two burgers a week. But nothing else.

Here's our full report. We'll put it on the site later.

Daily steak dangerous - Davies
People who eat steak daily are massively increasing their risk of developing bowel cancer, the British government warned yesterday.

The government wants people to cut their daily helpings of red meat to 70g - just 2.5 ounces.

It says eating 90g or more of red meat a day increases the risk of cancer.

The limit is about half the minimum size of a steak in a steak-house - of about six ounces.

The announcement is part of a government plan to "nudge" people into taking action to stop cancer.

The new advice says two beef burgers a day are within the limit - as is a single lamb chop or two slices from a roast joint.

Some 16,500 people a year die from bowel cancer and twice that many contract the disease.

Some 42 per cent of men are thought to exceed the recommended daily limit for meat consumption - and just 12 per cent of women.

Interim chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: "Following simple diet and lifestyle advice can help protect against cancer.

"Red meat can be part of a healthy balanced diet. It is a good source of  protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins.

"But people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down. The occasional steak or extra few slices of lamb is fine but regularly eating a lot could increase your risk of bowel cancer."

Peter Baker, of the Men's Health Forum, said men need to ensure that large helpings of meat are an "occasional" event.

He said: "Men who enjoy regular breakfast fry-ups or roast beef dinners will be surprised to learn that eating too much red or processed meat might increase their risk of bowel cancer.

"This is a health benefit surely worth giving up a few sausages for."

Link to an analysis of the statistics

Link to a fish cookbook


  1. "90g of red meat a day is dangerous, we were told. But how much is 90g? Who measures their meat in grammes when they eat?"

    More than 90% of the world actually. It's only Britain and America that cling to antiquated units like ounces.

  2. "90g of red meat a day is dangerous, we were told. But how much is 90g? Who measures their meat in grammes when they eat?"

    I do. I buy all of my meat from Tesco or Asda in g and when I cook that meat I follow recipes in g too. When I eat in restaurants I am actually confused by the use of oz (both for food AND soft drinks!) but have been pleasantly surprised by the growing number of restaurants who now show the size in g on their menus... and who, as a consequence, are more likely to get a return visit!

  3. Thanks for the comments. The point is that it is the British government seeking to influence the British population, men in particular. It's about plain-speaking if you are trying to get a difficult message across.