World Cancer Day: NGOs call for EU to stop funding red and processed meat advertising

Plans to beat cancer ‘pointless’ if EU continues to promote foods that makes the problem worse, say stakeholder groups.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

04 Feb 2021

The NGOs were responding to the European Commission’s flagship Beating Cancer Plan, outlined on Wednesday, which contains a raft of measures designed to help cut the ever-rising death toll caused by cancer.

The much-awaited and extensive plan centres around four key areas: prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and improving quality of life.

While most NGOs gave a qualified welcome to the plan, others said it that the continuing use of EU money on promoting red and processed meat ‘beggars belief’.

Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU, had some reservations about the EU move, saying, “While last year the Commission watered down ambitious wording regarding meat reduction in the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy, it is now taking a more confident step in the right direction, although it is not fully there yet.

“We applaud European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides and those working on this important work for the health of EU citizens. In this path, the EU can do better by taking a more holistic approach to improving our diets, besides tackling tobacco and alcohol use.

This can be done, for example, by overhauling the upcoming revision of marketing and advertising rules.”

"If the EU is to truly deliver on its commitments to improve our health, the lives of animals and save our one and only planet, then targets for reduction in the consumption of all animal products – not just red and processed meat – are necessary, accompanied by targets for an increase in consumption of plant-based foods" Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU

Kikou added “If the EU is to truly deliver on its commitments to improve our health, the lives of animals and save our one and only planet, then targets for reduction in the consumption of all animal products – not just red and processed meat – are necessary, accompanied by targets for an increase in consumption of plant-based foods. “

“An earlier leaked version was somewhat more ambitious, indicating a potential phase out of the promotion of red and processed meat.”

She added, “Nonetheless, this is a very good step in the right direction and will hopefully help prevent the disease. To build on this, the EU now needs to take a more holistic approach and step up the promotion of plant-rich diets in upcoming laws and policies.”

Monique Goyens, director of BEUC, the pan-European consumers group, commented, “With as much as 30 percent of all cancer cases linked to poor diets, the EU can make a big difference supporting consumers in eating more healthily. The Plan is a promising step to improve consumers’ access to healthy diets.”

She added, “It beggars belief that EU money is still being spent promoting red and processed meat, whereas experts tell us we should eat less of it. Not only will cutting down on red and processed meat benefit our health, but it will also reduce our food footprint.”

“Yet, a survey we published last year found that many consumers find it difficult to lower their red meat intake, even though our consumption in Europe is well above what is recommended for human and planetary health. It is only common sense that the EU must stop funding ads for meat.”

“It beggars belief that EU money is still being spent promoting red and processed meat, whereas experts tell us we should eat less of it. Not only will cutting down on red and processed meat benefit our health, but it will also reduce our food footprint” Monique Goyens, director of BEUC

Also reacting to the Beating Cancer Plan announcement, Greenpeace EU agriculture campaigner Sini Eräjää said, “What’s the point of EU plans to beat cancer or tackle climate change if it continues to promote food like meat that makes these problems worse?”

“Don’t tell us you care about climate and health – show us your budget and we’ll tell you if you care about climate and health.”

Regarding alcohol use, Ulrich Adam, Director General of SpiritsEurope, responded to the Plan, saying, “We welcome the initiative and fully support targeted policy recommendations that are proven to reduce the harmful consumption of alcohol.”

“Alcoholic beverages should only be enjoyed in moderation, as part of a balanced lifestyle, by those adults who choose to drink. The spirits sector has long promoted this goal and will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders to achieve it. “

“We are heartened to see that the Commission plans to encourage self- and co-regulatory initiatives related to marketing, an area in which our sector has long delivered on ambitious standards and targets – as we have also done in the area of labelling with our Memorandum of Understanding on consumer information.”

Meanwhile, the World Vapers’ Alliance, a group representing thousands of vapers worldwide, says it was concerned about the “bias the report demonstrates against vaping.”

Michael Landl, its director, said, “The plan shows that the Commission is allowing ideology to get in the way of science.”

“The aim of the Plan is to reduce the cancer burden for patients, their families and health systems, yet it ignores the wealth of evidence showing that vaping represents only less than half of one percent of the cancer risk that smoking does.”

 

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