Red meat report criticised by industry

Pearl Mccarthy
January 23, 2019

"The scientific targets we have devised for a healthy, sustainable diet are an important foundation which will underpin and drive this change".

"It is doable but it will take nothing less than global agricultural revolution", he told AFP.

"The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are now getting this seriously wrong", said Tim Lang, a professor at Britain's University of London who co-led the research.

The EAT-Lancet Commission said current diet trends around the world are unsustainable, and must "change dramatically" to avoid a climate change disaster and improve global health.

People would also be limited to 7g of pork a day - equal to a single cocktail sausage - and just 29g of chicken which is around one and a half chicken nuggets. In contrast, it suggests people should strive to eat 300g of vegetables and 200g of fruit, along with 50g a day of nuts and 75g of legumes, such as beans and lentils. Globally, more than 820 million people remain undernourished and concurrently, prevalence of diseases associated with high-calorie, unhealthy diets are increasing, with 2.1 billion adults overweight or obese and the global prevalence of diabetes nearly doubling in the past 30 years. People should eat a "variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods and added sugars", he said.

The Lancet editor-in-chief Richard Horton said, "We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources".

Human diets inextricably link health and environmental sustainability and have the potential to nurture both.

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"The report also backs matching food production to land capability, which means that New Zealand's expertise in producing sustainable, lean grass-fed red meat gives us a competitive advantage. The sector will continue to implement our environmental strategy, which is to be carbon neutral by 2050, support thriving biodiversity, ensure clean water that New Zealanders can gather food from and swim in, and foster healthy, productive soils".

At least halve food losses and waste, in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), on both the production side and the consumption side.

NFU vice president Stuart Roberts, however, said the global report needed to be looked at "through a local lens", and went on to defend the role of red meat within diets.

The Commission's definition of a healthy reference diet was calculated through analysis of food groups, with appropriate ranges proposed for essential daily intake that would lead to optimal health and well-being, and reduce premature deaths worldwide by 19-23 per cent.

Lang said, "We expected these attacks".

The report says global targets will need to be applied locally, For instance, residents of countries in North America eat nearly 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while residents of South Asian countries, like India, eat only half the recommended amount.

Meeting the targets for starchy vegetables such as potatoes and cassava would need big changes in sub-Saharan Africa, where people on average eat 7.5 times the suggested amount. Average population intake in the United Kingdom is now below this figure.

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