Increased Red Meat Trade Increased Diet related Ill Health

Increased Red Meat Trade Increased Diet related Ill Health

The increased trade of red and processed meat over the past 30 years has sharp links to an increase in diet related ill health, and the greatest impact is felt in Northern and Eastern Europe and the island nations of the Caribbean and Oceania, a latest study said.

The study published in BMJ Global Health said that red and processed meat trade across the world has risen exponentially to meet demand of continuous urbanisation and income growth. Moreover, this trend has widespread ramifications for the environment because of the impact it has on land use and biodiversity loss.


The researchers note that health policies should be integrated with agricultural and trade policies among importing and exporting nations as a matter of urgency, to stave off further personal and societal costs. It is already known that increased red and processed meat consumption is linked to a heightened risk of non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes, bowel cancer and coronary artery heart disease.


The researchers drew on data on meat production and trade from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from 1993 to 2018 for 154 countries. They mainly focussed on 14 red meat items derived from pork, beef, lamb, goat and six processed primarily beef and pork items, preserved by smoking, salting, curing or chemicals. They then calculated the proportions of deaths and years of life lived with disability (DALYs) attributable to diet as a result of type 2 diabetes, coronary artery heart disease and bowel cancer among those aged 25 and over in each country.


The study showed that global red and processed meat trade increased by more than 148 per cent from 10 metric tonnes in 1993-95 to nearly 25 metric tonnes in 2016-18. Though the number of net exporting countries fell from 33 in 1993-95 to 26 in 2016-18, net importing countries rose from 121 to 128. The report states that developed European countries accounted for half of total red and processed meat exports in 1993-95 and 2016-18. Meanwhile, developing countries in South America like Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil accounted for nearly ten per cent in 2016-18, up from around five per cent in 1993-95.

Developing countries also saw an increase in meat imports by 342.5 per cent from two metric tonnes in 1993-95 to nearly nine metric tonnes in 2016-18.


Diet related attributable death and DALY rates associated with the meat trade rose in three quarters between 1993-95 and 2016-18. The researchers found that increased red and processed meat consumption accounted for 10,898 attributable deaths in 2016-18, an increase of nearly 75 per cent on the figures for 1993-95. It mentioned that meat trade across the globe led to 55 per cent of attributable deaths and 71 per cent in DALYs in developed countries between 1993-95 and 2016-18. In developing countries, the figures showed a higher wave.


Island nations in the Caribbean and Oceania and countries in Northern and Eastern Europe became particularly vulnerable to diet-related disease and deaths associated with large meat imports between 1993- 2018. The researchers said Tonga, Barbados, United Arab Emirates, Fiji, Bahamas, Gabon, Greece, Malta, Saint Lucia and Brunei were the top ten countries with the highest proportion of deaths attributable to red meat consumption in 1993-95. In 2016-2018, the top 10 included The Netherlands, Bahamas, Tonga, Denmark, Antigua and Barbuda, Seychelles, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Croatia and Greece.

Meanwhile, the report also mentioned that trends in attributable DALYs more or less mirrored those for attributable deaths. Attributable death and DALY rates associated with global meat trade fell in 34 countries between 1993-5 and 2016-18.


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