Scientists have questioned the reliability of data used by UK food tsar Henry Dimbleby to call for slashing red meat consumption.
It comes after a Sainsbury’s executive warned that “some” vegan foods were high in salt and sugar.
According to a Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, later published in The Lancet, global deaths from eating red meat reached 896,000 in 2019 – a 36-fold increase in two years.
Dimbleby cited the research in his National Food Strategy, recommending that people eat 30 per cent less meat by 2030.
The reduction is also apparently necessary for Britain to hit its target of net zero by 2050.
However, The Grocer reports that a team of scientists led by Professor Alice Stanton has cast doubt on the study.
After a “forensic examination”, they found “no relationship” between eating red meat and ill health.
Writing to The Lancet, the group argued it would be “inappropriate” for the GBD work to be used in “regulatory or legislative decisions”.
Repeated requests for the publication to review the data or publish the evidence behind it were reportedly declined.
Stanton said she was “very concerned” that the GBD report suggested that meat had become significantly more dangerous to human health.
“There are huge dangers to human health if we don’t objectively look at the available evidence,” she said.
“This hasn’t happened in [GBD’s] 2019 analysis.
“What would happen to child and maternal nutrition, iron deficiency and anaemia rates worldwide, if [the data] was obeyed?”
In response, Henry Dimbleby said Stanton’s work “wouldn’t change our arguments” because the “environmental impacts of meat production were much more significant.”
The Lancet did not respond to a request for comment.
Speaking at the Cop26 climate summit this month, Sainsbury’s chief marketing officer Mark Givens said he was concerned about “some of the salt and fat content” in meat alternatives.
“That’s something, with our suppliers, we’re working very carefully to balance,” he added.
Campaign group Action on Salt has warned that vegan products can be twice as salty and more processed than meat.