Louise Meincke has said that the ‘meat tax’, which would increase the cost of processed meat by 79% was not about “punishing individuals”, but about encouraging governments to improve the affordability of healthy foods.
Researchers say the “meat tax” could prevent almost 6,000 deaths per year in the UK and save the economy more than £700 million in avoided healthcare costs.
Ms Meincke, Head of Policy at the World Cancer Research Fund, told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “This isn’t about punishing individuals and it certainly isn’t about blaming individuals who have had a difficult day.
“What it is about is that governments need to take action to increase the availability, acceptability, accessibility, and affordability of healthy products over unhealthy ones.
“It is about making decisions easier for people, which is simply not the case at the moment.”
She added: “We simply live in environments that are unhealthy. Industries are spending millions on marketing unhealthy products that are high in sugar, salt and fat.”
'It is time for governments to step up'
Higher taxes on processed meat were also expected to cause consumers to switch to eating more unprocessed meat.
Ms Meincke said that taxes on unhealthy products could help promote a healthier lifestyle.
“It is interesting and we certainly welcome the report because what it does is help us stimulate debate on what types of policy actions are actually available to governments to promote a healthy diet,” she said.
“This does include taxes on unhealthy commodities and harmful products.
“We already have taxes on unhealthy products such as alcohol and tobacco and now even sugar.
“We certainly feel having a discussion around taxes on meat is a welcome addition.
“Now our research has consistently shown over several decades that there is a link between red and processed meat and cancer.
“Therefore we believe it is time for governments to step up and look at what they are able to do to help countries, individuals and communities to actually live healthy lives.”