Call for 79% health tax on sausages and bacon

A meat tax could save the economy £700m researchers say

In the US, the tax might result in people eating three fewer portions of red, processed meat each week. Beef, lamb and pork all fall into this category, though depending on how it has been preserved, such meats may ultimately be classified as processed.

Meat Promotion Wales' meat advisory panel said that the tax, proposed in a research document by scientists at the University of Oxford, was ill advised and potentially ignored the main health benefits of eating meat.

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

Meat tax price hikeHow much would a United Kingdom meat tax be?

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

It's an interesting paper that's sure to start a debate.

What is the difference between red meat and processed meat?

Where did the story come from?

Of that total, 6,000 deaths would be avoided in the United Kingdom and 53,000 in the US.

The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The new research is published in the journal Plos One and uses a standard economic approach called "optimal taxation" to calculate the tax rates.

The study was widely reported in the United Kingdom media.

While another added that a meat tax sounds regressive.

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But whether it means consumers buy less sugary drinks remains to be seen.

What kind of research was this?

And making sure the health costs of foods are reflected in their prices is an important component of that.

Modelling studies can estimate the potential outcome of a particular policy, but they rely on many assumptions that may not prove to be accurate in real life.

By 2020, consumption of red and processed meat was likely to cause 2.4 million deaths per year and cost the global economy 285 billion U.S. dollars (£219 billion), the study found. "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".

Each of these calculations was based on information from a variety of datasets.

The likely impact of a meat tax on death rates due to chronic disease was also estimated. That would amount to a reduction in the number of deaths attributed to eating meat of 15.6%. In May, a major analysis of the damage livestock does found that avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact.

What were the basic results?

"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", said Dr Springmann.

The team has speculated that meat taxes could bring down processed meat consumption by about two portions per week in the high-income nations. That reduced consumption would result in about 53,000 fewer deaths each year and save around $20 billion in health care costs. 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 lead scientist on the study, Marco Springmann, said that bacon was "really one of the unhealthiest food products out there".

But the study is a useful reminder that eating a lot of processed meat in particular does have an impact on health.

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