Meat and Livestock Commission's advertising campaignBMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7024.181a (Published 20 January 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:181
Commission defends campaign
- Chris Lamb
EDITOR,—Gill Langley's review of the Meat and Livestock Commission's advertising campaign “Meat matters” suggests either that the author has only superficial nutritional knowledge or that her interpretation of our campaign is clouded by her apparent bias towards vegetarianism.1 She suggests that an acceptable alternative to steak that would provide similar amounts of absorbable iron might be cooked soya beans, cauliflower, and baked potato with coleslaw. Is such a bland combination really supposed to compare with a steak meal, which would still provide more absorbable iron since meat not only contains haem iron but also enhances absorption of non-haem iron in the vegetables and cereals it accompanies?
Langley correctly points out that spinach is not the best plant source of iron. Yet market research among consumers and health professionals has shown that spinach is the icon when it comes to iron. With increasing concerns about iron deficiency in Britain, it is appropriate that we tell the public how valuable red meat is as a source of iron; hence the comparison with spinach.
The review misses the true significance of the commission's campaign. It is precisely because the fat content in red meat has fallen that such a campaign is possible and timely. Too many people have cut back on red meat in the mistaken belief that to do so will improve their diet. If only it were so simple.
The Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy has recommended that fat intake should be reduced to 33-35% of energy intake,2 but this recommendation applies to our whole diet averaged over several days, not to individual foods. To apply this recommendation in this incorrect way would result in many healthier foods being blacklisted, including oily fish, olive oil, and low fat spread.
Finally, Langley's comment about the Meat and Livestock Commission making “sideswipes” at vegetarians is unjustified. The commission is simply alerting health professionals and consumers to new nutritional facts about the fat content of meat, as well as to the dangers of consuming too little iron. As eating patterns change and the traditional “meat and two veg” meal becomes less common it is important that everyone takes steps to eat a balanced diet, whether this includes a high or low proportion of meat or none at all. The Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy makes clear that those who avoid eating meat should think carefully about replacing the nutrients that meat provides.