The U.K. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has issued a February 25, 2011, Health and Iron Report recommending that the general population eat no more than 500 grams of red and processed meat per week, or 70 grams per day. At the request of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy, which in 1998 linked red and processed meat to colorectal cancer risk, SACN undertook “a comprehensive review of the role of iron in human nutrition,” including “potential adverse effects both of iron deficiency and of iron excess.” It ultimately concurred with the earlier findings that “high consumers of red and processed meat should consider reducing their intakes because of possible links with a risk of colorectal cancer.”

SACN particularly noted that adults consuming more than 90 grams of red and processed meat per day “should consider reducing their intakes” to reflect the population average of 70 grams per day (cooked weight), a dietary change that would have “little impact on the proportion of the adult population with low iron intakes.” The advisory committee also emphasized the need for more research geared toward updating the dietary reference values for iron, and cautioned that some population groups—toddlers, girls, women of reproductive age, and some adult groups older than age 65—were still at risk for iron deficiency and anemia.

SACN also recommended “a public health approach to achieving adequate iron status based on a healthy balanced diet that includes a variety of foods containing iron.” According to the report, “This is a change to current dietary advice that iron-rich foods should be consumed at the same time as foods/ drinks which enhance iron absorption (e.g., fruit, meat) but should not be consumed with those that inhibit iron absorption (e.g., tea, coffee, milk).” See The Telegraph and SACN Press Release, February 19, 2011.