A study of five scientific investigations by the WFO scientific council indicates that unprocessed red meat intake does not produce harmful health effects.

It found the statistical association of up to 100g of red meat consumption per capita per day of red meat consumption so weak that they should be considered neutral.

As fewer than 1% of people eat more than 85g of red meat daily, the impact on public health is considered so negligible as to be irrelevant.

Among the studies reviewed, the Global Burden of Disease (GBD)in 2019 was an outlier in that it revealed red meat as a significant health risk, claiming it causes the equivalent of 896,000 deaths globally every year, a 36-fold increase on a similar GBD study in 2017.


Neither the GBD nor The Lancet, the scientific journal in which the study was revealed, have agreed to reveal the methodology behind the surge in death estimates.

This is described by the WFO scientific council as appearing to violate widely accepted scientific standards.

Professor demands evidence for increased death estimates from red meat

The Irish Farmers Journal spoke to Professor Alice Stanton from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and Devenish, about the WFO scentific council analysis of the most recent GBD study.

Professor Stanton said that “as well as the WFO paper, six professors from six different universities from four countries have also been seeking disclosure and publication of the evidence on which this dramatically increased estimate is based but the initial request has been refused”.

This is a major issue, according to Professor Stanton, because “in evidence-based medicine practice, the non-disclosure of the systematic reviews and meta-analyses used in the calculation of global health metrics is comparable to a judge and jury deciding a case without a public hearing of the evidence from prosecution and defence.

Professor Stanton also noted that it appeared that the GBD 2019 study at variance with its predecessor from two years earlier, the dramatic death estimates in the 2019 study are out of sync with a number of other scientific studies from recent years.

The GBD study was published in The Lancet, a leading scientific journal.

It is a frequent reference point for the UN, EU and most recently England’s National Food Strategy development of policy on meat consumption.

Professor Stanton is adamant that The Lancet, by refusing to reveal the evidence behind the estimates, is not complying with its own policy for accepting scientific papers for publication. Professor Stanton said the general scientific consensus is that there is negligible, if indeed any, risk to health unless consumption is very excessive, certainly over 75g per day.

Irish consumption is estimated at 40g or 50g per day on average, according to Professor Stanton. She also emphasised the positive impacts on human health of moderate red meat consumption (30g to 60g per day), by promoting childhood brain development, providing protection against iron and vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia, and against osteoporosis (hip fractures) and fragility in the elderly.