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Thu Sep 01 01:31:38 CAT 2016

Sugar sin-binned in bid to reduce waistlines

Bianca Capazorio‚ Shaun Smillie and Katharine Child | 24 February, 2016 19:20
Professor Karen Hofman from Wits University’s PRICELESS institute who were instrumental in lobbying for a sugar tax in South Africa was delighted with the news on Wednesday. File photo
Image by: ©Tischenko Irina/

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has sin-binned sugar in a move he hopes will tighten South African waistlines while helping fill public coffers.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan announced on Wednesday that South Africa would follow the lead of countries like Denmark‚ France‚ Finland‚ Hungary‚ Mexico and Ireland by introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks such as sodas‚ cold drinks‚ sports drinks and sweetened juices‚ from April1 2017.

The 2016 budget review states that “obesity stemming from overconsumption of sugar is a global concern. Over the past 30 years‚ the problem has grown in South Africa which has led to the worst obesity ranking in Sub-Saharan Africa‚ and led to greater risk of heart disease‚ diabetes and cancer.”

It states that “fiscal interventions such as taxes are increasingly recognised as complementary tools to help tackle this epidemic”.

Professor Karen Hofman from Wits University’s PRICELESS institute who were instrumental in lobbying for a sugar tax in South Africa was delighted with the news on Wednesday.

“It is wonderful news. This now brings South Africa with the international work done in other countries‚” she said.

In Mexico‚ where a similar tax was introduced in 2014‚ a 10% decline in the sales of such drinks was recorded. People were also found to be drinking more water.

Hofman's research showed that a tax of 20% on sugary drinks could result in obesity in women dropping by 2.4% and in men by as much as 3.8%.

Last year Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the country needed to increase its focus on preventative care rather than the more expensive curative care‚ especially as government prepares to rollout the National Health Insurance Fund.

Hofman was also instrumental in the introduction of legislation this year that made processed food companies and bread manufacturers lower their salt content.

Her colleague Greer Van Zyl said: "Huge accolades to Karen and team. This wasn't even on the horizon a few years ago - this is evidence-based research translated into policy in really tangible terms."

Not everyone is happy with the new tax. Leon Louw of the Free Market Foundation said that it was an infringement on people's rights. “Why don’t people see the deep evil of interfering in people's lifestyle choices‚” he said.

Banting diet advocate Prof Tim Noakes said more needed to be done to improve the health of the nation. “If government wants to curb the growing ill health of all South Africans it needs to follow a much more comprehensive plan. Sugar is not the sole problem‚” Noakes said.

TMG Digital/TMG Parliamentary Bureau/The Times


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