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Doctors call for ‘misleading’ Let’s Eat Balanced campaign to be dropped


Doctors are calling on the government to retract the ‘Let’s Eat Balanced’ campaign, which was funded by a pro-farming group, urging people to eat meat and dairy

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), which is funded by food producers including farmers, is behind the Let’s Eat Balanced initiative.

People trying to reduce their meat intake are the target audience of the campaign, which features adverts promoting beef, lamb and dairy.

Claims on the Let’s Eat Balanced website include describing beef, pork, lamb and dairy as ‘natural’ sources of Vitamin B12 and protein.

The site also claims that British meat and dairy are ‘produced to world-class food and farming standards’ and are ‘among the most sustainable in the world’.

It adds: “In a world filled with dietary trends and fads, our campaign embraces an inclusive perspective on achieving a balanced diet.”

But doctors’ groups say the campaign features ‘a high level of misinformation’, and that its claims are ‘at odds with established scientific evidence’.

Let’s Eat Balanced campaign’s claims questioned

Two UK organisations – the Doctors Association UK and the Plant-Based Health Professionals (PBHP) – wrote a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which AHDB is part of.

It was written by Dr Matt Lee, the sustainability lead of the Doctors Association and Dr Shireen Kassam, the director of PBHP.

Their letter was also endorsed by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change alongside nine further nutrition and health experts and doctors, with the organisations representing more than a million health professionals together.

In the letter, medics highlighted the links between red meat and a number of diseases including cancer and type 2 diabetes, referring to the campaign’s health claims as ‘disingenuous’.

They added that the initiative flies in the face of ‘the scientific evidence and the government’s own guidelines, which clearly demonstrate the need to shift away from animal farming and transition to a plant-based food system’.

In addition, they added that a study carried out by the Office of Health Economics charity found that if people in England went plant-based, the NHS would save £18.8 billion a year.

According to the letter: “No other intervention can deliver such significant health benefits alongside cost savings and environmental benefits.”

Improved health outcomes

The letter added: “Replacing animal protein with plant sources of protein is associated with significant improvement in health outcomes, including reduced risk of premature death.

“Yet the Let’s Eat Balanced campaign has links to suggestive ‘health benefits’ whilst ignoring the guidance to limit meat intake, particularly red and processed meat.”

The authors continued: “Actively promoting meat to those who are reducing meat consumption flies in the face of public health and sustainability targets and action.

“We call on the AHDB to wholeheartedly embrace this difficult but necessary step, by retracting the campaign to promote increased consumption of meat and dairy using misleading and un-evidenced marketing.

“Although meat is a source of protein, zinc, iron and vitamin B12, these nutrients are easily obtained from a well-planned plant-based diet, as recognised by the British Dietetic Association amongst other dietetic and nutrition institutions,” they add.

In response, an AHDB spokesperson said: “Let’s Eat Balanced is a fully evidence-based campaign communicating the nutritional and sustainability benefits of British red meat and dairy in a manner that aligns with the government’s dietary guidelines, as outlined in the Eat Well Guide.

“We sincerely hope members of the Doctors Association UK are aware of the Eat Well Guide and are using these guidelines to support their patients’ needs.

“Anyone advocating a totally global plant-based diet as a panacea to climate change ignores the fact the realities are far more complex. Solutions lie in a balance of sustainable plant and sustainable meat and sustainable fish production along with a balanced plate approach to diets and portion sizes.”

Incorporating more plant-based food into your diet is easy. Get inspired with these cheap vegan meals that taste expensive

Featured photo © ViDi Studio via Adobe Stock



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