Consumption of processed meat can lead to early death, a new study has shown.

The findings were reported in the journal BMC Medicine and come in the wake of the horsemeat scandal which has led to questions about the origins of food.

The research involving half a million people highlighted links between processed meat and heart disease and cancer

"The report was highlighting the fact that people who consume a lot of processed meat, which in the context of the study included things like sausages and bacon, ham, salami were at high risk of premature death or early death. So it was trying to highlight the fact that people should be encouraged to eat less of these foods," said Tracey parker, a dietician with the British Heart Foundation.

The study said meats like pork, goat, beef and lamb -- and poultry were a healthier alternative.

"The benefits of the study show us that red meat like pork, beef has some benefits. And of course, poultry -- chicken and turkey -- actually there was no association with premature death. So while we are focusing on processed meats, the other benefit of the study is to show what we need to do is to have a rounded intake of alternative protein," Parker said.

High processed meat consumption led to a 72 percent increased risk of dying from heart disease, and an 11 percent increased risk of dying from cancer, the study says. Experts said moderation was the key to good health.

"Take everything in moderation. There is a tendency is some foods such as processed meats sweet and chocolates to become very mainstream. So we need to go back to basics and be treating these foods as treats. So if you are someone who has a grill up on Saturday morning, perhaps you don't need to be so worried about it," Parker said.

Presented by Adam Justice