Meat tax could save thousands of lives and slash healthcare costs

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

Heartbroken dog owner calls for fireworks displays to start later

Taxing red and processed meat would also save the NHS millions of pounds by cutting consumption and therefore rates of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, they say.

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

It found the cost of processed meat such as bacon and sausages would double if the harm they cause to people's health was taken into account. There is strong mechanistic evidence for an association between eating red meat and colorectal cancer, and there is also evidence of links with pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

Like taxes on other products that can harm health, a health tax on red and processed meat could encourage consumers to make healthier choices.

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?

Researchers concluded that the United Kingdom government should introduce a tax of 79 percent on processed meat such as bacon, and 14 percent on unprocessed meat such as steak.

For the United Kingdom, it was estimated that 6,000 lives could be saved every year if a 14% on red meat and 79% of processed meat were imposed.

The study, published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, indicated that a health tax could reduce consumption of processed meat such as bacon and sausages by about two portions per week in high-income countries.

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 United States dollars (£219 billion), the study found. Of that total, 6,000 deaths would be avoided in the United Kingdom and 53,000 in the US. These countries also spend more money treating the associated chronic diseases.

There's also the concern that it targets foods bought by those on lower incomes.

Because of this difference in health costs, the health taxes would need to differ by region, to factor in the health and economic burden of red and processed meat consumption in a specific region.

"The tax is higher in the USA due to an inefficient health system that wastes a lot of money", said Springmann.

The health taxes on sausages in Germany, and bacon in the U.S., for example would increase prices by a whopping 160%. Fresh burgers and mince are not considered to be processed meats. Due to its relatively modest healthcare spending the United Kingdom is somewhere in the middle with an 80% increase.

So why can red meat be harmful?

In the US, the tax might result in people eating three fewer portions of red, processed meat each week.

The suggested United Kingdom meat tax rates would have a significant impact on food prices here, but consumers in some other countries would likely be hit even harder.

Globally the benefits of a meat tax included a 16% reduction in processed meat consumption, and the prevention of 222,000 deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

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

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 healthcare systems and the economy.

Last month climate minister Claire Perry told BBC News it was not the government's place to tell people they can't eat steak and chips, despite the environmental impact.

Latest News