As part of a new research project to increase the consumption of vegetables, leaflets on how consumers can eat less meat might be provided at Sainsburys supermarkets in the UK.

The objective of the project, which is being funded by the Wellcome Trust, is to encourage shoppers to put more vegetables on the table and less meat.

Proposals being considered as interventions for consumers to more vegetables and less meat include:

  • Putting vegetarian alternatives on the same shelves as meat products.
  • Supplying vouchers and loyalty points to shoppers who choose vegetarian products.
  • Handing out recipes and leaflets that outline how shoppers can eat less meat

The exact interventions to be trialled will be determined during the planning stages of the research, a spokesperson for the Wellcome Trust said.

The Wellcome Trust will uniquely partner with Sainsbury’s for the project, to test how changes in demand for animal-sourced food could be achieved.

Dr Sarah Molton, who leads Wellcome Trust’s work in this area said that the amount and type of meat and dairy products we eat are key drivers of both our health and the health of the environment.

“Reducing how much of these products we eat is therefore a win-win.”

This project is not about turning people vegetarian and is more than simply trying to get people to eat more vegetables.

“It’s about identifying whether small interventions such as product placement and loyalty rewards can encourage people to eat more meat and dairy substitutes and subsequently reduce how much of the real thing they eat.”

“We’ll have to wait and see if this can be rolled out to other supermarkets – it’s a five year project.”

Dr Molton said that this research is necessary because there is so little evidence of what works and this will give the Wellcome Trust much more insight into what practical and effective solutions may look like.

Processed meat labelled ‘probably cancer causing’

In 2015, red meat was classified as probably carcinogenic to humans and processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans in a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

After thoroughly reviewing the accumulated scientific literature, a working group of 22 experts from 10 countries found that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans.

This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, the WHO report found.

Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.

The report concluded that each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.