A new study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM) that recommends continuing the consumption of all meat, including processed meat, has stirred controversy among the medical community. The analysis in question was carried out by a panel of 14 international researchers who determined that reducing meat consumption does not produce measurable health benefits and recommended that people “continue their current consumption of both unprocessed red meat and processed meat.” The study goes against current research, including work conducted by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which classified processed meats as potential carcinogens in 2015. In response, several organizations, including the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), along with other researchers, have publicly objected to the study and its ill-informed recommendations.   

PCRM—a 12,000 doctor-member group that advocates for plant-based nutrition—filed a petition this week with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against AIM for disseminating publically harmful information. “AIM’s message is not only an inaccurate statement of the findings, it is a major disservice to public health,” PCRM president Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, said. “These misrepresentations are directly at odds with abundant scientific evidence demonstrating the potential ill health effects of red and processed meat and the benefits of reducing consumption of red and processed meat.” PCRM’s petition calls upon the FTC to “permanently prohibit AIM from disseminating, or causing the dissemination of the advertisement at issue and require AIM to issue a public retraction of and corrective statement regarding the advertisement.”  

To support the claims in its petition, PCRM cited several studies that point to the health dangers of consuming meat, including a Harvard School of Public Health study that linked the consumption of red meat to a 12-percent higher risk of premature death; a study published in the International Journal of Cancer that shows a diet high in red meat increases the risk of colon cancer in women; and a University of Oxford study that links the consumption of just one piece of bacon per day to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.