Draft national eating plan riles red meat groups

James Nason, 17/05/2011

A draft Federal Government review of national dietary guidelines that contains suggestions Australians should limit consumption of red meat based on environmental concerns has riled livestock sector groups.

The Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council is reviewing the nation’s healthy eating guidelines and expects to release its official report next month.

A draft version of the report included a recommendation that Australians limit their consumption of beef to 455 grams a week based on carbon concerns.

The draft report said red meat production had “a large environmental impact through combined methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.”

In the latest edition of Meat and Livestock Australia’s producer magazine Feedback, National Farmers Federation manager, rural affairs, Dr Sam Nelson, said the statement had raised industry concerns that the final guidelines will recommend restricting red meat due to health and environmental concerns.

MLA said it had presented a submission to the review process outlining the nutritional benefits of red meat, the lack of credible scientific evidence surrounding claims of environmental impact of food production, and highlighting the work undertaken by industry and Government in the area of environmental sustainability. 

Nr Nelson said the NFF has also communicated to relevant ministers and Government departments that there were fundamental issues in trying to include an assessment of sustainability in the development of the guidelines – “particularly when environmental impacts were only being considered for certain foods such as meat, dairy and fish.”

He was also concerned that the significant investments made by industry and Government towards environmental sustainability were not being recognised.

The Victorian Farmers Federation’s livestock group president Chris Nixon said the NHMRC was working far outside its charter to be making claims based on the possible environmental impacts of beef consumption.

“It is highly inappropriate that the NHMRC, a government funded group, has been allowed to make recommendations based on environmental concerns,” Mr Nixon said.

“The VFF backs statements made earlier in the week by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and other agricultural industry groups that the NHRMC should restrict their investigations to health and medical research."

Mr Nixon it was well known that the health of many Australians, particularly young women, could benefit from increasing their red meat intake.

“I think there is a strong need for the Federal Government to review the funding of this organisation in light of its inability to stick to its own charter. If farmers had it their way, the authors of the report would be out of a job,” Mr Nixon said.


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