"We believe a meat tax is unnecessary and unhelpful in public health terms for the reasons mentioned above, while such a tax would also discriminate against lower income families".
High-income countries, such as the United Kingdom and the USA consume about double the global average of red and processed meat.
Web Desk: Scientists from Britain have called for a tax on meat, which allegedly can save thousands of lives, reported Metro.
Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann said the consumption of red and processed meat in the United Kingdom exceeds recommended levels in most high and middle-income countries. "A health levy 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", Springmann said. The reduced consumption of processed meat identified by the study would also have positive knock-on effects on climate change and body weight.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned of processed meats such as bacon, sausages, and ham causing cancer in 2015. However, people in rich nations eat more than the recommended amount of red meat, which is also linked to heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
The research suggests that if the optimum health taxes were introduced, the consumption of processed meat would decline by about two portions per week in high-income countries and by 16 per cent globally.
Governments around the world have already shown a willingness to tax products that have been linked with health problems, including cigarettes, alcohol and sugar.
The resulting higher prices would also cut meat consumption by two portions a week - now people in rich nations each eat one portion a day. Unprocessed red meat consumption would remain steady, due to consumers substituting it for processed meat.
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%.
Rob Bailey, a researcher at the Chatham House thinktank and not part of the research team, said: "The recent sugar tax has shown the United Kingdom government's willingness to tax foods when there is a sound rationale for doing so".
An effective tax in Sweden would mean a 185 per cent rise for processed meat and 27 per cent for red meat.
Meat tax price hikeHow much would a United Kingdom meat tax be?
The WHO also classifies red meat as probably carcinogenic - even if eaten unprocessed.
But in China optimal tax levels were much lower - 7% on red meat and 43% on processed meat, the study found. "Meat does not contain fibre, whereas beans, peas and lentils are fibre-rich and they can count as one of your five-a-day".
"A meat tax need not be particularly controversial given the prevalence of alternatives to meat and their benefits".
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