Sweet and sour of dreaded sugar tax

21 April 2016 - 02:43 By Katharine Child


There will be 200 000 more obese young South Africans by next year - mostly young people - if a sugar tax on soft drinks is not introduced, according to dietary researchers at Wits University. The Priceless unit at the Wits Centre of Public Health has investigated the effects of raising the price of soft drinks to deter excessive consumption.The unit's research shows that failure to institute a tax would mean an increase in sales of soft drinks by 2.4% a year.Unit director Karen Hofman said the beverage industry had admitted it was targeting the youngest and poorest consumers. She said a 20% increase in the price of soft drinks would reduce the number of obese people by 220000 in three years.In February Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced drinks with high sugar levels would be taxed. These include fruit juice, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, iced teas and vitamin waters.Beverage industry officials are expected to meet Treasury officials today to discuss their concerns about the tax.Spokesman for industry body BevSA, Mapule Ncanywa, said: "The industry is a valuable contributor to the growth of our economy and we are willing to pay our fair share of taxes. What we are against is a discriminatory tax and that is why we welcome engagement with the Treasury."The industry has questioned why producers of sweet snacks, chocolates and sugary breakfast cereals are not facing higher taxes.Hofman said "liquid sugar" was the biggest risk for diabetes as soda was quickly absorbed and spiked the body's blood sugar fast, overworking the pancreas and liver.Coke has eight teaspoons of sugar, Fanta Grape has 11 and energy drinks have about nine."A can of Coke a day increases the risk of diabetes by 26% and being overweight by 27%," said Hofman.Children who drink a can of Coke a day have a 55% higher chance of being overweight.A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Mexico introduced in 2014 led to a 12% reduction in purchases of the drinks a year later.

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