The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the flawed carcinogenic classifications of its tarnished Monographs Program are influencing policy again, this time in the form of proposed a meat tax in several European nations. Although legislative plans are not finalized, policymakers in Denmark, Sweden, and Germany have indeed added a meat tax to their respective policy agendas. A new report on meat tax even mentions IARC’s widely-criticized decision to list red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans. This should be very troubling to European businesses and consumers, especially when one considers IARC’s long history of misinformation and outdated, unbalanced cancer hazard assessments.
According to a new report by the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) initiative, governments may tax meat to meet global health and environmental challenges. The FAIRR report cites IARC’s 2015 announcement, which classified meat as a “probable” carcinogen: “…a 2015 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) classifying processed meat as carcinogenic echoes similar reports on the harmful effects of tobacco and sugar.” It should be known, though, that IARC’s parent organization, the WHO, immediately walked back IARC’s 2015 statement saying: “[M]eat provides a number of essential nutrients and, when consumed in moderation, has a place in a healthy diet.” Yet IARC’s hazard-based classifications, which are based on incomplete science and are at odds with the conclusions of prominent global regulators, continue to make the headlines, misinforming people and policy. By blurring the lines between the assessment of risk and the assessment of hazard, IARC’s claim that meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans” causes confusion and rash and meritless policy decisions.
This phenomenon is prominently on display in Belgium. The country’s 2017 food pyramid now recommends eating much less red meat for a healthy diet. The new food pyramid also considers processed meat products as foods that “are not necessary for a balanced diet and can even damage your health.” While not as extreme as an actual tax on meat, Belgium’s alteration of its official food pyramid is just another demonstration of how IARC is able to influence public policy and consumer behavior despite being known for lacking scientific integrity or transparency.
IARC’s decisions have affected public policy and caused unwarranted burden to consumers and businesses before. Look no further than the Golden State of California and its Proposition 65. Proposition 65 or the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act was implemented in 1986 to protect California’s waters from being contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. It also requires businesses to notify Californians about exposures to such chemicals in products. However, what makes Proposition 65 concerning is its Labor Code provision.
According to the Labor Code provision or Section 25904, IARC’s carcinogenicity evaluations act as one of the determining factors for whether a chemical is listed on Proposition 65. In other words, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) views anything that IARC classifies as a Group 1, 2A, or 2B carcinogen as cause for listing on Proposition 65. The Labor Code allows OEHHA to adopt the findings of IARC without pursuing public input, and this has been a contributing factor to the general abuse of the legislation by predatory trial lawyers.
Along with influencing California’s Prop 65, IARC’s Monograph Program is also often responsible for confusing and causing unnecessary alarm amongst consumers in California. IARC has previously listed coffee as “possibly carcinogenic,” but later walked back on that determination. Now, IARC asserts that drinking hot beverages is carcinogenic. These decisions cause confusion amongst consumers and also enable trial lawyers to sue businesses with little to no scientific evidence – as evidenced currently in California.
IARC’s severely flawed Monographs Program wields an unjustifiable amount of influence over public policy. From California to Denmark, IARC’s questionable carcinogen conclusions have directly or indirectly influenced policy and upcoming policy decisions. Additionally, IARC’s flawed hazard cancer assessments cause confusion, create unnecessary alarm, and lead to undue burden for consumers and businesses. Through all IARC’s controversy and questionable conclusions and practices, it is clear that basing public policy on the organization’s carcinogen evaluations is far from appropriate and should be stopped until IARC’s Monographs Program is significantly modernized and reformed.