A recent analysis of the health-related harms associated with red and processed meat has hit the news with headlines like this (from the Guardian):
Taxing red meat would save many lives, research shows
The cost of bacon and sausages would double if the harm they cause to people’s health was taken into account
The cancer agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies the consumption of red meat, which includes beef, lamb, and pork, as carcinogenic – or having the potential to cause cancer if eaten in processed form. This includes hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and beef jerky – as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces...
...Like taxes on other products that can harm health, a health tax on red and processed meat could encourage consumers to make healthier choices. And our new research, which looks at the benefits of a health tax on red and processed meat has found that such as tax could prevent more than 220,000 deaths and save over US$40 billion globally in healthcare costs every year.
But there are two sources of uncertainly in the underlying data that deserve some skeptical analysis. How big is the true effect of meat eating on cancer and other diseases? And how certain are we that increased tax has the effect climbed on actual consumption?
For example, David Spiegelhalter, an expert on risk analysis and risk communication was not going to give up bacon sandwiches on the basis of the original harm estimates as he explains in this video.
So would higher taxes on meat save large numbers of lives?
(note this breaks down into two questions: can we trust the risk estimates? and can we believe the impacts of tax on consumption levels?)