Red meat tax could save thousands of lives but faces backlash

Muffin the collie- who was run over and killed when spooked by a firework thrown by local youths

Muffin the collie- who was run over and killed when spooked by a firework thrown by local youths

A "meat tax" could prevent nearly 6,000 deaths per year in the United Kingdom, according to researchers, but should politicians be telling people what they can and can't eat?

On a global scale, meat taxes could prevent the deaths of around 220,000 people by 2020 and save £30.7bn, according to scientists at the University of Oxford. Not only is it associated with increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, but there is also convincing evidence that red and processed meat can cause cancer.

There is also a growing awareness of the environmental impact of eating red meat because of the high levels of land and water use and carbon emissions associated with its production.

In the United Kingdom, they said the "optimal" tax level to reduce consumption would increase the cost of red meat by 14% and processed meat by 79%.

Our results suggest that if the health taxes were introduced, consumption of processed meat would decline by about two portions per week in high-income countries and by 16% globally.

In the United Kingdom, the "optimal" tax level increased the cost of red meat by 14% and processed meat by 79%.

In the U.S., the tax resulted in red meat costing 34% more and the price of processed meat soaring by 163%.

Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University, urged governments around the world to consider a meat tax.

"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".

A meat tax "would not limit choices, but send a powerful signal to consumers and take pressure off our healthcare systems" Dr Marco Springmann insisted.

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.

The higher prices on red and processed meat encourage dietary shifts to other, less harmful foods.

In 2015 the World Health Organization warned that processed meats, like bacon, sausages and ham, could cause cancer, while unprocessed red meat could also increase your risk.

Regular consumption of processed meat has also been linked to a 9% higher risk of breast cancer, according to an analysis of various scientific studies that was published in October.

As a result, consumption of unprocessed meat was predicted to remain unchanged by 2020.

In addition, an estimated 3,800 deaths related to obesity would be prevented, the study found.

In the United Kingdom, an effective meat tax that offset healthcare costs would prevent 5,920 deaths per year amounting to a reduction in the number of deaths attributed to eating meat of 15.6%. In October, scientists reported that huge reductions in meat eating are essential to avoid unsafe climate change, including a 90% drop in beef consumption in western nations.

"Optimal" meat taxes in several other countries were significantly higher than in the United Kingdom, according to the research.

In the USA these numbers would be 163% and 34% respectively.

An effective tax in Sweden increased the price of processed meat by a whopping 185% and that of red meat by 27%.

By now you've probably heard that eating too much red and processed meat is bad for you.

The same policy in Denmark resulted in red meat being taxed at 29% and processed meat at 119%.

Louise Meincke, from the World Cancer Research Fund, said: "This research, looking at the potential effects of a meat tax, shows it could help reduce the level of meat consumption, similar to how a sugar-sweetened beverage tax works, as well as offset costs to the healthcare system and improve environmental sustainability". "Meat does not contain fibre, whereas beans, peas and lentils are fibre-rich and they can count as one of your five-a-day".

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