Food Politics: Should Meat be Taxed like Sugar?

by Dr Michelle de la Vega, PhD — Get free science updates here.

You’ve probably seen the news that researchers from the University of Oxford are proposing a tax on red and processed meat.

But this isn’t the first time that a tax on food items has been proposed. In April 2018, a sugar tax was introduced in the UK, on drinks containing more than 5 grams of sugar per 100ml. Many countries also tax alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

The connection between all these consumables? They are all said to have negative effects on our health, increasing the healthcare cost burden. 

What Are the Health Risks of Meat Consumption?

In 2015, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organisation (WHO), classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen (meaning it can cause cancer in humans) and red meat as a Group 2A carcinogen (which means it probably causes cancer in humans).

But just because something is labelled as a carcinogen, that doesn’t mean it will definitely cause cancer. The amount consumed, how often it is eaten, and individual genetics all play important roles. You can learn more about the link between red meat and cancer in this Red Meat and Cancer Risk course.

It’s also not just cancer risk we need to think about. High red and processed meat consumption may also increase risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

How Much Would the Proposed Tax Be?

Since processed and red meat consumption varies globally, the tax would depend on the country and their healthcare cost burden from red and processed meat. For example, in high-income countries (like the US), the researchers predict that a 111.17% price change for processed meat would be necessary to offset the healthcare costs, whilst in upper-middle income countries (like the UK) a 46.85% price increase would be necessary.

For red meat, the price change would be smaller: 21.36% for high-income countries and 6.51% for upper-middle income countries.

The proposed tax varies from 0.2% to 185% for processed meat depending on the region (Springmann et al., 2018).

What Do YOU Think?

There is evidence to suggest that taxing processed and red meat could change behaviour, lower consumption, and reduce cancer risk. But we don’t actually know if it will work in practice.

Plus, should the government be the one to decide which foods we should eat – or should it be an individual’s decision?

Should processed and red meat be taxed?

Take our poll below and let us know what you think!


Did you enjoy this? Sign up to receive our FREE email updates!

See Also

Continuing Education Bundle

Free Academic Tour

Exclusive Webinar

[CPD Certified Webinar] Lifestyle Medicine Strategies for Your Nutrition Practice

  • Why nutrition and health practitioners should gain a deep insight into lifestyle medicine when working with clients
  • Importance of conducting health screenings and interpreting essential biometric data – while ensuring timely medical referral
  • How integrating lifestyle medicine into your programs can help clients better manage ongoing symptoms and optimise wellbeing
  • Advantages of attaining the Fundamentals of Anatomy, Pathophysiology, and Lifestyle Medicine™ Level 5 Certification
  • What lifestyle medicine practice looks like – and how it works within and outside medical settings

Register now

© Copyright

Everything on this site is original content, created and owned by or through The Health Sciences Academy ® or licensed accordingly.

The Health Sciences Academy is the world’s largest, 100% science-based, online educational institution.

✔ helping health professionals build their expertise in specialised areas             ✔ raising industry standards through personalised nutrition and practical science.
© Copyright The Health Sciences Academy. The content, graphs and charts on this page have been exclusively prepared for The Health Sciences Academy and its prospect students, existing students and graduates. None of the content on this page and website may be reproduced, copied or altered without our explicit permission. Criminal and legal penalties for copyright and other infringement apply. All Terms and Conditions apply.


Free Courses



About Us

© 2022 The Health Sciences Academy ® All Rights Reserved.

Client certifications

"My certifications with The Health Sciences Academy have taught me to use and understand many scientific methods and they are invaluable when it comes to implementing what I have learned into my business. I got clearer on the direction of my company. I wouldn’t be where I am now without them!"
Christopher Barker
Founder of The Lifestyle Clinic
"I've started a business based on helping people create the healhiest, most able-to-thrive babies possible with the building blocks being my learnings with The Health Sciences Academy. I'm just so thankful for the education and for the amazing team that helped me! For me it's been life-changing."
Rochelle Serna
Founder of The Non Tox Shop


Gain The Clarity You Need About Your Next Professional Steps by Taking a Career Strategy Assessment and Get FREE Access to The First Lessons of 14 Professional Certifications!
Send this to a friend