A meat tax could save the economy £700m researchers say
08 November, 2018, 21:39
A so-called "meat tax" could also save the United Kingdom economy more than £70 million in avoided healthcare costs, the researchers said.
At those levels, the tax would collect $172 billion per year globally, covering 70 percent of the health care costs associated with their consumption. Then they calculated an optimal tax that could help account for those health costs.
Although the tax would massively push up the price of burgers, sausages, mince and steak, scientists behind the study called on all governments to consider imposing it.
They estimated the health impacts of current levels of consumption of red and processed meat, and the projected consumption in 2020, for 149 world regions.
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.
In the United Kingdom, the "optimal" tax level increased the cost of red meat by 14% and processed meat by 79%.
Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University, said high consumption of red meat was not just having an impact on personal health but was also increasing the burden on health services and the economy, which was losing its workforce due to ill health.
"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".
"There is no high-quality evidence linking red and processed meat with heart disease, stroke or diabetes, and a risk of bowel cancer only applies when weekly intakes exceed 700g".
Taxing meat in Germany at an effective level led to red meat being 28% more expensive and the price of processed meat rising by 166%.
The researchers say this would translate to about a 22% drop in deaths and almost a 19% drop in healthcare costs linked to processed meat consumption.
In addition, an estimated 3,800 deaths related to obesity would be prevented, the study found. The tax would offset health-care costs and prevent over 200,000 deaths per year, a study says.
PAFS are a statistical tool used to estimate the proportion of disease cases attributable to a specific cause, which in this case was eating processed or red meat.
Rob Bailey, a researcher at the Chatham House thinktank and not part of the research team, said: "The recent sugar tax has shown the United Kingdom government's willingness to tax foods when there is a sound rationale for doing so". The team suggests a 14 percent tax on red meat and a 79 percent tax on processed meat for this effort to be effective.
In 2015, the World Health Organization's cancer agency classified red meat as carcinogenic if it's processed-as in hot dogs, beef jerky, or sausages-and said that it's probably carcinogenic even if it's not processed.
As few people in the United Kingdom are at this level of consumption, a general meat tax would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
The same policy in Denmark resulted in red meat being taxed at 29% and processed meat at 119%.
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