Oxford scientists recommend processed meat tax to 'take pressure off our healthcare systems'

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

They say it could prevent almost 6,000 premature deaths in the UK.

The researchers looked at how red and processed meat are linked with things like heart disease, strokes, diabetes and cancer.

To have an impact, they say foods like bacon and sausages would need a levy of 79%.

The meat tax could also save the economy more than £700 million in avoided healthcare costs each year.

Globally, the study found meat taxes could save an estimated 220,000 lives by 2020 and reduce healthcare costs by £30.7 billion.

Despite the huge impact on the price of things like burgers, scientists at the Nuffield Department of Population Health in Oxford, have called on all governments to consider imposing meat taxes.

Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann said: "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.

"Nobody wants governments to tell people what they can and can't eat.

"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."

The World Health Organisation has classified beef, lamb and pork as carcinogenic when eaten in processed form, and "probably" cancer-causing when consumed unprocessed.

Red meat consumption has also been associated with increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

Louise Meincke, from the World Cancer Research Fund, said: "Governments need to implement more evidence-informed policies to help make our daily environments healthier so that it is easier for people to make these healthy choices.

"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."


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