Meat tax would raise prices but save thousands say researchers

Several studies have shown red meat to be harmful in the long run when consumed regularly. Researchers have proposed that a meat tax could deter people from excessive red meat consumption due to raised prices and this could prevent around 6,000 deaths annually in UK.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have suggested the government to place a tax on beef, lamb and pork meat to prevent excessive consumption. The researchers advise that if these taxes are in place, over £700 million would be saved in health care costs too. The study was published in the latest issue of the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Excessive consumption of red meat has been linked to heart disease, stroke, cancers and also metabolic diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. In a 2015 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), processed meat consumption has been linked to cancers. Processed meats include sausages, ham and bacon which form staple diets of many individuals. Unprocessed red meats too have been known to raise the risk of cancers, the report had said.

This new report from the Oxford researchers adds that people consuming these meats are not only risking their lives but also the economy. The heath care services are overtly taxed and also there is loss of work force due to work place absenteeism due to ailments associated with red meat consumption. Processed meat manufacture consumption is also associated with land and water overuse and increased carbon emissions, the report states. Reducing such consumption would also benefit the climate, the researchers explain.

Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University said in a statement, “The consumption of red and processed meat exceeds recommended levels in most high and middle-income countries. This is having significant impacts not only on personal health, but also on healthcare systems, which are taxpayer-funded in many countries, and on the economy, which is losing its labour force due to ill health and care for family members who fall ill.” “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. 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.

The team has speculated that meat taxes could bring down processed meat consumption by about two portions per week in the high-income nations. Imposing such a tax across the world could save 220,000 lives worldwide approximately by 2020 and reduce world healthcare costs by £30.7 billion, the team speculates. The team suggests a 14 percent tax on red meat and a 79 percent tax on processed meat for this effort to be effective.

Meat tax would follow sugar tax that was introduced early this year. Now manufacturers have to pay a tax on the amount of sugar they use in their products. This has reduced sugar use in many branded products. Thus public consumption of sugar has reduced.

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