Scientists call for ‘meat tax’ to save lives and offset healthcare costs

Scientists call for ‘meat tax’ to save lives and offset healthcare costs

To fully cover those costs, the tax would need to be doubled. Processed meats include sausages, ham and bacon which form staple diets of many individuals.

The researchers calculated red meat taxes for 149 different nations, with the rate depending on how much red meat those citizens eat and the costliness of their healthcare system.

'However, our findings make it clear that the consumption of red and processed meat has a cost, not just to people's health and to the planet, but also to the healthcare systems and the economy'.

"'Meat tax' which would nearly double price of sausages should be brought in to save lives, say health experts", reports The Daily Telegraph.

Earlier this year the government introduced a sugar tax on soft drinks, meaning manufacturers have to pay a levy on high-sugar drinks.

What is the difference between red meat and processed meat?

Given the negative health impacts, there have been calls for certain types of meat to be regulated similar to other carcinogens - such as tobacco or asbestos - or like other foods of public health concern - such as sugary drinks.

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In the United Kingdom, the "optimal" levy would raise the cost of red meat by 14 per cent and processed meat by 79 per cent. Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford university, said it would "send a powerful signal to consumers and take pressure off our healthcare systems". And as a result, the health taxes we calculated are based on an economically optimal tax that is high in high-income countries and low in low-income countries.

And for a pack of eight pork sausages from Sainsburys the price would increase from £1.50 to £2.69.

But the study is a useful reminder that eating a lot of processed meat in particular does have an impact on health. A meat tax, he says, could also be used to subsidize fruits and vegetables or to help farmers and butchers transition away from red meat. Due to its relatively modest healthcare spending the United Kingdom is somewhere in the middle with an 80% increase.

The global benefits of a meat tax included a 16% reduction in processed meat consumption, and the prevention of 222,000 deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. In that study, published in the journal Nature, Springmann argued that the entire world needed to drastically reduce its intake of meat as both a hedge against climate change and a means to feed to the Earth's growing population.

The researchers found that such a tax would reduce consumers' portions of processed meat such as bacon and sausages by two servings per week in Britain. And it would also reduce levels of obesity by driving consumers to lower-calorie substitutions. "A health levy on red and processed meat would not limit choices, but send a powerful signal to consumers and take pressure off our healthcare systems", he added. Governments don't need to tell people what they can and can't eat, but they have a responsibility to encourage the adoption of healthy and sustainable diets.

But while the move may be unpopular, one student on Twitter said they would cut down on the amount of meat she now buys if the tax came into effect.

This modelling study fitted data to mathematical models to estimate the effects of making changes to food prices.

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