Background: It has been claimed for many decades that meat is a risk factor for colorectal cancer, and that it has no compensating benefits in terms of cancer risk. The evidence for this has been critically reassessed.Methods: The epidemiological evidence, particularly that produced in recent years, has been re-examined to determine whether it is sufficiently consistent to warrant giving firm advice to the general public.Results: Far from being supportive, the epidemiological data does not justify this claim. A large mass of evidence is presented from case–control studies and prospective studies, in which the data from Europe are not consistent with those from the United States. This is because of the different contexts (in terms of meal composition) within which meat is consumed in different countries. In fact the epidemiological data are much more consistent with there being a protective role for fruit, vegetables and whole grain cereals and no role for meat in colorectal cancer, and a protective role in gastric cancer.Conclusions: Meat is a good source of protein, readily available iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc and a range of B vitamins. Since the evidence for any role in colon carcinogenesis is so weak, and since such a high proportion of women of child-bearing age are iron deficient, the consumption of meat, as part of a balanced and varied diet, should be actively encouraged.