Could a red meat tax help solve obesity and climate change?

News 29/01/2019
Photo: Unsplash.

A panel of experts are urging New Zealand to place a tax on red meat to address its effects on climate change, obesity and nutrition.

The report, released by The Lancet Commission on Obesity, suggests that reducing global red meat consumption is "a cornerstone for healthy, sustainable diets".

It proposed that 14 grams of red meat a day (that's a whopping single burger over a week) was ideal for environmental and health outcomes.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health recommends limiting red meat to 71g a day - five times the Lancet's recommendation.

University of Auckland population health professor Boyd Swinburn, chair of the commission, told Magic Talk that our existing food systems will continue to drive obesity without intervention.

"The food systems are a huge problem in destroying the planet. And also creating an enormous amount of our ill health and premature death."

Magic Afternoons host Sean Plunket, who opposed a red meat tax, told Dr Swinburn that the report's proposal comes across as fascist.  

Dr Swinburn emphasised that the tax is intended to address global food systems that are failing to deliver healthy, affordable food - rather than an attack on how people eat. 

"This is not a collapse of personal will or increase in ignorance around the world," he said. "This is because the food systems are there, driving the obesity."

He also suggested that the red meat industry has excessive influence in Government policy, which he says is why obesity rates aren't improving at a quicker rate.

But Regina Wypych, registered nutritionist at Beef + Lamb New Zealand, denies that red meat is the driver of obesity.

"It's just not as simple as isolating one food."

Ms Wypych says grass-fed red meat can be a part of a healthy diet provided that it's eaten in moderation.

"Meat is actually a really good way of supplying healthy nutrients in a balanced diet to the families who are struggling a wee bit."

Magic Talk.