Health-motivated taxes on red and processed meat: A modelling study on optimal tax levels and associated health impacts

06 November 2018


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The consumption of red and processed meat has been associated with increased mortality from chronic diseases, and as a result, it has been classified by the World Health Organization as carcinogenic (processed meat) and probably carcinogenic (red meat) to humans. One policy response is to regulate red and processed meat consumption similar to other carcinogens and foods of public health concerns. Here the authors describe a market-based approach of taxing red and processed meat according to its health impacts.

They calculate economically optimal tax levels for 149 world regions that would account for the health costs associated with ill-health from red and processed meat consumption, using a coupled modelling framework to estimate the impacts of optimal taxation on consumption, health costs, and non-communicable disease mortality. Health impacts were estimated using a global comparative risk assessment framework, and economic responses were estimated using international data on health costs, prices, and price elasticities.