Meatco probes reports that processed meats cause cancer

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Windhoek

Following the publication of a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) regarding a reported link between processed meat and colorectal cancer, the World Health Organisation (WHO) received numerous queries and requests for clarification.

Meatco yesterday announced that it has asked the advice of local industry expert, Dr Anja Boshoff-De Witt, the manager of meat standards at the Meat Board on how factual this report is. According to Meatco, Dr Boshoff says: “From a scientific and meat processing perspective, the causes of cancer are many and complex. Lifestyle also plays a very important role in the development of cancer. It is well-known that a balanced diet is essential, while the benefits of consuming red meat in moderate quantities are numerous and cannot be overlooked. Consumers should note that lean red meat is a nutrient-dense food source.”

“Considering that local meat producing companies are required to comply with international standards to ensure their products are safe for human consumption, the safety and quality of our meat cannot be called into question. One example of our safety assurance is the FAN Meat Scheme of the Meat Board of Namibia, which is based on national legislation and good farming practice (GFP). Farmers are also audited on an annual basis by the Directorate of Veterinary Services and the Meat Board.

“Standards that must be adhered to include that animals are medicated responsibly, that no banned substances – like growth hormones – are used, and that withdrawal periods of medication are followed. This ensures that no unwanted residues are present in the meat,” she says. “Another important standard regarding the feeding of livestock is that no mammalian protein may be fed to livestock in order to prevent the risk of so-called ‘mad cow disease’.

“The scheme also looks at the transport and handling of livestock. It is now known that animal welfare plays an important role in meat quality. Stressed animals produce a meat that is dry, firm and darker than normal and will have a much shorter shelf life,” Boshoff-De Witt adds. As the custodian of food safety in Namibia, the Ministry of Health and Social Services is responsible for abattoir and processor inspections, health certification and meat assessments.

At export abattoirs, the Directorate of Veterinary Services is responsible for the certification of meat. It is important to note that the consumer also plays an important role in the safety of meat, and hygienic handling must be maintained up to the point of consumption.

Boshoff-De Witt says that the Meat Board recently launched the Seal of Quality Certification Programme, which certifies that red meat retail outlets maintain a high level of food safety and hygiene practices.

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