Is red meat as dangerous as lead?

The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) will next month release updated lists of the substances that cause cancer and there’s one hell of bombshell that could ruin many summer barbies.

The IARC ranks substances (this is a broad term) in one of five groups. Group 1 is ‘carcinogenic to humans’; 2A is ‘probably carcinogenic’; 2B ‘possibly carcinogenic’; 3 ‘not classifiable’ and 4 ‘probably not carcinogenic’.

In October, reports say the IARC will add red meat to the 2B ‘possibly carcinogenic’ list, where it will join things like lead, marine fuel, the active ingredient in Roundup and the human papillomavirus, along with more than 250 other substances.

The 22-member IARC panel will meet in France to assess recently published studies that have implicated the consumption of red meat and bowel cancer risk; processed meats are also under fire.

Eating too much red meat has been linked to health problems including shorter lifespans, heart disease, and various kinds of cancer. In April 2014, the IARC cited studies linking red and processed meats to colorectal, esophageal, lung, and pancreatic cancer, and called determining the connection a “high priority.” Since then, the organisation has been collecting information to make their final determination.

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It’s expected the IARC will recommend an enormous reduction in consumption of steak, lamb and sausages. The Daily Mail reports the IARC may be suggesting that eating any more than 300g a week could be a cancer risk. This is about the size of a large steak.

It’s worth noting that the IARC  has so far evaluated 982 substances – and found only one to be ‘probably not carcinogenic’.

Will this new recommendation make you reconsider your red meat intake?