Reduction in UK red and processed meat intake - expert reaction

Pauline Scheelbeek comments on new study by University of Oxford

Daily meat consumption in the UK has decreased by approximately 17.4g per person per day – just under a 17% reduction – in the last decade finds new research from the University of Oxford.

Between 2008/09 and 2018/19 people in the UK reduced both the amount of red and processed meat they eat, while slightly increasing their white meat consumption. Yet, this reduction is significantly less than the 30% reduction the National Food Strategy has recently called for within the next ten years.

Dr Pauline Scheelbeek from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a co-author of a recent study which found diets low in animal-sourced products reduce the risk of chronic diseases in adults and have a lower environmental footprint.

Commenting on the new study Dr Scheelbeek said: 

"The results of this study are very important - from both a health and an environmental perspective. The substantial reduction in average meat consumption – and the consistency in results across different societal groups - certainly gives us hope that British consumers are permanently changing the way they make their daily meal choices. This could be an important factor that accelerates transformational change in our food system - that is so urgently needed to meet both health and climate change targets.  

"It is now of crucial importance to ask “what else is going on?”: for example, what foods replace the “gaps” left by a reduced meat intake, and how healthy and sustainable are these alternatives. We also need to learn more about barriers and enablers of dietary change from both those that have changed their diets and those that have not changed in the past decade. These insights will be pivotal to informing policy and practice - aiming to further improve the sustainability and healthiness of our diets in the UK."

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