Sausages, bacon and burgers could soon come with a luxury price tag, because scientists have recommended processed meat in the UK is taxed by 79%.
Researchers from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University analysed data to estimate the “optimal” level of meat tax required to counteract healthcare costs associated with high red meat consumption.
The study was based on previous research linking regular consumption of red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork, to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
Increasing the cost of all red meat by 14% and processed meat by 79% could prevent almost 6,000 deaths per year in the UK and save the NHS more than £700 million, according to the findings.
The researchers have called on the Government to consider the tax, but readers told HuffPost UK this would unfairly raise food costs for low-income families, without providing cheap, healthier alternatives.
The research indicated that a health tax could reduce consumption of processed meat by around two portions per week in high-income countries like the UK. Lead researcher Dr Marco Springmann said the consumption of red and processed meat in the UK 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,” 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 would not limit choices, but send a powerful signal to consumers and take pressure off our healthcare systems.”
While some welcomed the proposal on Twitter, others told HuffPost UK they’re unconvinced, raising concerns that a meat tax would penalise the poorest in society and not necessarily lead people towards healthier choices.
One user told HuffPost UK on Twitter: “The laws of economics mean that any tax will cause some people to switch. Problem is that they might switch to something even more unhealthy, especially if they’re poor.”
While another added that a meat tax sounds regressive. “No doubt they have great intentions health-wise, but a tax like that would likely hit lower income people a lot harder. And without equivalent incentives on other substitute foods, [it] is just a cost, not change-inducing,” he said.
To avoid the poorest in society being the hardest hit, another user suggested a different approach: “Why not just put a health warning on the packaging? Informs consumers and gives them the choice.”
But while the move may be unpopular, one student on Twitter said they would cut down on the amount of meat she currently buys if the tax came into effect. “I’m a student and to be honest I just buy whatever is affordable without compromising my health too badly,” she said.
What do you think of the recommended tax? Let us know in the comments below.