The people quizzed for this study in ten countries included smokers. ‘Those most likely to smoke ate the most processed meat and less fruit and vegetables.
Yet dietician Dr Catherine Collins, of London’s St George’s Hospital, says 20g is just a guideline.
What the study actually shows is that heart-disease risk starts to increase significantly only for people eating 40g plus a day – the equivalent of six pork sausages every week.
‘The average British intake [of processed foods] is 37g a day, so below risky levels,’ says Dr Collins.
Can eating just half a pork sausage – or a ham sandwich – a day really trigger an early death?
That was the warning from experts earlier this month – that processed meat is a major factor in developing two of Britain’s biggest killers, heart disease and cancer.
Study leader Prof Sabine Rohrmann, from Switzerland’s University of Zurich, said: ‘We estimate three per cent of premature deaths each year could be prevented if people ate less than 20g of processed meat per day.’The scientist points out that this study does not calculate actual deaths in Britain from processed meat.
Instead, it estimates the likely chance of dying from cardiovascular disease if you eat these foods.
Its main finding is that anyone who eats a lot of processed meat (160g plus – the equivalent of two-and-a-half sausages) every day – is 72 per cent more likely to die from heart disease than someone who eats a moderate amount (less than 20g).
But eating it in moderation doesn’t pose a great health risk.
Danger diet: A person who eats more than 160grams of processed meats, such as bacon and sausages, every day is 72 per cent more likely to die from heart disease than someone who eats less than 20 grams a day Processed meat cannot be singled out in this study as the only trigger for stroke and heart attack deaths, says Prof Sanders.
Other factors such as smoking, diet and lack of exercise could be equally to blame.