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Study Says 'Meat Tax' Could Save Hundreds Of Thousands Of Lives

A new study says a global "meat tax" on red and processed meat could save hundreds of thousands of lives and drive down health care costs by reducing consumption. 

The study by researchers at Oxford University was published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal on Tuesday. 

Before we dive into that study, here's a bit of background: There's scientific evidence that processed meat is carcinogenic and that red meat is probably carcinogenic, which means there's an increased risk of cancer. Processed meat has also been linked to heart disease. 

So in order to combat health care expenses related to eating processed or red meat, researchers have suggested a "meat tax" to encourage people to eat less of it.

The study calculated "optimal taxation" rates in which the prices for processed meat would increase by 25 percent on average, with the tax rate ranging from 1 percent in low-income countries to over 100 percent in high-income countries, like the U.S. The prices for red meat would increase by an average of 4 percent in this projection.   

The report says those tax rates would decrease consumption of processed meat by an average of 16 percent. Red meat consumption would be stable as a substitution for processed meat. 

Researchers projected that the tax and the resulting reduced consumption could prevent more than 200,000 deaths each year globally and cut health care costs by $41 billion. The study said the tax would also benefit the environment.  

This is the latest health-motivated tax to be explored. Taxes on items like saturated fats and sugary drinks have already been implemented or suggested by governments around the world.


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