09:20, 7 November 2018.
(Updated on 11/11/2018 at 11:17 am)
A tax on meat could prevent nearly 6,000 deaths a year in the UK and save the economy more than £ 700 million in costs, researchers said.
According to a study, meat taxes could save an estimated 220,000 lives worldwide by 2020 and reduce healthcare costs by £ 30.7 billion.
The consumption of red meats such as beef, lamb and pork is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
The scientists wanted to calculate the amount of taxes required to offset the health costs associated with eating meat in 149 regions of the world.
The likely impact of a meat tax on the mortality rates due to a chronic illness has also been estimated.
Consumption of red and processed meat is expected to cause 2.4 million deaths by 2020 and cost the world economy $ 285 billion (£ 219 billion), the study said.
The amount of meat tax required to make it effective varied from country to country.
In the UK, "optimal" taxes increased the cost of red meat by 14% and processed meat by 79%.
Although the tax would massively increase prices for burgers, sausages, minced meat and steak, the researchers behind the study called on governments to consider imposition.
The lead researcher Marco Springmann of Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Population Health said, "Consumption of red and processed meat is above recommended levels in most high and middle income countries.
"This has a significant impact not only on personal health, but also on the health systems that are being funded by taxpayers in many countries, and on the economy losing its workforce due to sickness and care of sick family members.
"I hope governments will introduce a health tax on red and processed meat as part of a series of measures to help consumers make healthy and sustainable choices.
"A health tax on red and processed meat would not limit choices, but send a strong signal to consumers and relieve our health systems."
The World Health Organization has classified processed beef, lamb and pork as carcinogenic and said it was "probably" carcinogenic if consumed unprocessed.
Increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes have also been associated with red meat consumption.
The benefits of a meat tax included a 16% reduction in processed meat worldwide and the prevention of 222,000 deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
An estimated 3,800 obesity-related deaths were prevented, the study published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE found.
In the United Kingdom, an effective meat tax that compensates for health costs would prevent 5,920 deaths per year, leading to a 15.6% reduction in the number of deaths caused by eating meat.
Louise Meincke of the World Cancer Research Fund said: "This research shows the potential impact of a meat tax and shows that it can reduce meat consumption, much like a sugar-sweetened beverage tax B. offset health care costs and improve environmental sustainability."