You may start paying tax for eating meat in the UK. Here’s why

Scientists have called for a new tax on meat – which they claim would save thousands of lives in Britain.

A so-called ‘meat tax’ could also save the UK economy more than £70 million in avoided healthcare costs, the researchers said.

Such a tax would have a huge impact on the sales of burgers, sausages, mince and steak.

Eating red meat has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

In order for a meat tax to be effective in Britain, the cost of red meat would need to rise by 14%, and processed meat by 79%, scientists found.

Those tax levels could prevent almost 6,000 deaths per year in Britain, according to the researchers. 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.

He said: ‘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 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.

Higher taxes on processed meat were also expected to cause consumers to switch to eating more unprocessed meat.

The global 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 UK, according to the research.

In the US, the tax resulted in red meat costing 34% more and the price of processed meat soaring by 163%. Taxing meat in Germany at an effective level led to red meat being 28% more expensive and the price of processed meat rising by 166%.

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