Should red meat be taxed?, World Business Report

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

Scientists wanted to calculate the level of tax that would be required to make up for healthcare costs associated with eating meat in 149 regions around the world.

The study found that red meat would need to be 20% more expensive and processed meat, like bacon, sausages and jerky, would need to be more than double its current price to account for these health costs.

For the United Kingdom alone, an effective meat tax that offset healthcare costs would prevent 5,920 deaths per year, amounting to a reduction of 15.6 per cent in the number of deaths attributed to eating meat, according to the study.

A recent landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said cutting down how much meat we eat was a key way individuals could help stop rising global temperatures.

While another added that a meat tax sounds regressive.

"It all raises the question: Maybe we should regulate red and processed meat similar to other carcinogens like tobacco or asbestos, or some of the other foods that have demonstrable negative health impacts and that are increasingly regulated, like sugary drinks", says Marco Springmann, a senior researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at the University of Oxford, who led the study.

Why can red meat be harmful?

Thus public consumption of sugar has reduced.

"The tax is higher in the United States due to an inefficient health system that wastes a lot of money", said Springmann.

Now a standard 681g pack of 12 pork sausages from Tesco costs £1.09. Whereas prices for processed meat in China would have to increase by 40%, and those in Ethiopia by less than 1%.

The benefits of reducing red meat consumption also go beyond reducing rates of disease and health care costs. Due to its relatively modest healthcare spending the United Kingdom is somewhere in the middle with an 80% increase.

"I hope that governments will consider introducing a health levy on red and processed meat as part of a range of measures to make healthy and sustainable decision-making easier for consumers".

Consumption of red meat such as beef, lamb and pork has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Looking into optimal taxation levels for red and processed meats in almost 150 countries and regions, researchers concluded that in high-income countries, red meat prices would need to be increased by more than 20 percent, while processed meats would need to more than double in price. And it would also reduce levels of obesity by driving consumers to lower-calorie substitutions.

Globally, meat taxes could save an estimated 220,000 lives by 2020 and reduce healthcare costs by £30.7 billion, a study has found. "A health levy would not limit choices, but send a powerful signal to consumers and take pressure off our healthcare systems".

They estimated taxes would need to be highest in high-income countries like the USA and the United Kingdom, while they could be much lower in less wealthy countries.

Even if the figures were reliable, there's a big discussion to be had about whether governments should tax food to encourage people to eat more healthily.

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