While late October's release of the report “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective” drew praises from anti-beef activists, beef-industry leaders said the report should be taken with skepticism.

The report, issued by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research, contains 10 recommendations. Among them are to limit consumption of energy-dense foods, and limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meats. The report's authors recommend that people limit red meat consumption to 18 oz./week (cooked), or about 2.6 oz./day.

But Mary K. Young, a registered dietitian and vice president of nutrition with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), says an “Assessment of Red Meat and Cancer” by independent scientists shows no evidence that red meat causes cancer. “This comprehensive review evaluated every available epidemiological study on red meat and six types of cancer and concluded there was no causal link. How the WCRF review could come to a different conclusion is perplexing.”

And Randy Huffman, American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation vice president of scientific affairs, called WCRF's conclusions “extreme, unfounded and out of step with dietary guidelines.” He says a Harvard School of Public Health analysis three years ago — the largest study ever done on red meat and colon cancer — showed no relationship between red meat consumption and cancer.