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Will New Health Risks Linked to Meat Change Consumer Behavior?

CHICAGO – Despite a recent study from The World Health Organization that links processed meat and red meat consumption to cancer, consumers’ eating behaviors in regards to these foods are unlikely to change, according to analysis by market researcher The NPD Group.

An international panel of experts convened by the World Health Organization concluded that eating processed meat like hot dogs, ham and bacon raises the risk of colon cancer and that consuming other red meats “probably” raises the risk as well, according to media reports.

The committee that issued the new report, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, consists of 22 public health, cancer and other experts from 10 countries. The group, which reviewed 800 studies on cancer in humans, acts as an adviser to the World Health Organization.

Following the release of similar findings in 2002 by the American Cancer Society (ACS), NPD studied consumption behavior of these kinds of meats and found there was little change before and after the study was released. The ACS findings cited that those with diets high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal fat, meat and calories had a reduced risk of some common types of cancer.

Since attitudes can differ from actual behavior, NPD also analyzed consumers’ intention to eat processed and red meats after the release of the ACS dietary guidelines. It found that intentions to eat these foods following the release continued to follow the same patterns as before.

"Humans are creatures of habit for the most part and are slow to change, but we do evolve," said NPD Food and Beverage Industry Analyst Darren Seifer. "It’s that slow evolution in both attitudes and behaviors to which producers, processors, food manufacturers and retailers must pay attention.”

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