Statement - Processed meat

Response to recent call by World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) to ‘ban’ ham and processed meat from children’s lunchboxes

Following media reports that ham sandwiches should not be included in children’s lunchboxes, safefood would like to reassure consumers that ham can be included on the lunch menu on occasion. Processed meats like ham, sausages and bacon can be high in fat and salt and should not be consumed everyday.

The World Cancer Research Fund report, first published in October 2007, highlighted a number of recommendations in relation to diet and lifestyle with regard to cancer prevention. Evidence suggests that a high consumption of red meat, particularly processed meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Given the findings in the WCRF’s report, safefood continues to advise that lean meat should be chosen over processed varieties where possible and that consumers on the island need to modify their overall red meat intake to more moderate levels.

On the island of Ireland, over half of the meat consumed is processed meat. Dr. Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said, 'While we would advise that processed meat can be consumed occasionally, we know that tackling the school lunchbox and getting a healthy mix of sandwich fillings such as lean chicken, eggs, tuna, turkey, cheese and salad vegetables takes a bit of thought and preparation. However it’s worth it for children’s health in the long term and we would encourage parents to try to introduce as much variety as possible in their children’s diets.'

Lean red meat is an important source of nutrients in the diet and a rich source of iron and many women and children on the island of Ireland have intakes below the average requirement (Source: North/South Food Consumption Survey).

safefood recognises the value of children getting a healthy start in life by adopting healthy eating habits from a young age and is working to help families make healthy choices through our ongoing 'Little Steps’ campaign', continued Dr. Foley Nolan.

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