National Treasury’s Sugar Tax

HEALA supports National Treasury’s attempts to protect sugary drinks tax

We support Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s announcement that he will adjust the health promotion levy (HPL) for inflation from 1 April 2019.

In his speech, Mboweni said the levy rate would increase to 2.21 cents to avoid an erosion in the value of the tax due to inflation. Currently, the levy is set at 2.1 cents for every gram of sugar beyond the first 4g of sugar per 100ml, which translates to an 11 percent tax on sugary drinks.

The inflation-adjustment of the HPL shows government’s commitment to protect this policy. But this not enough. We believe the rate – still around 11% on a can of Coca-Cola – is still too low. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 20 percent tax in order to get people to reduce their consumption of sugary drinks enough to make an impact on obesity.

Excessive consumption of sugary drinks is a major cause of obesity. It also increases the risk of diabetes, liver and kidney damage, heart disease and some cancers. In 2017, there were around 180,000 new diabetes cases in South Africa’s public sector alone.

We will continue to advocate for protection of the this increase unabated until the health of South Africans is taken seriously by government and the beverage industry.

In recent days, Coca-Cola and others have attempted to undermine the levy, citing its impact on job losses. These are merely scare tactics and show the industry’s prioritisation of profits over health.

While Coca-Cola makes millions, the queues at our clinics grow longer. We all know that many of our schools and spaza shops are covered with Coca-Cola adverts, and for decades many of us didn’t know the truth about how much sugar there is in cold drinks.

Companies like Coca-Cola have been allowed to sell a product that drives life-threatening diseases and they have specifically targeted poor communities who have the least access to quality health services.

A statement by Sibongile Nkosi, Executive Director of Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA).
For interviews, please contact sbo@heala.org, 066 253 4056.

New HM Appointment

HEALA URGES NEWLY APPOINTED HEALTH MINISTER, DR ZWELI MKHIZE, TO CONTINUE THE FIGHT AGAINST OBESITY AND NCDs IN THE COUNTRY

30 May 2019 – The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) welcomes the appointment of Dr Zweli Mkhize as the National Minister of Health.

We hope that this moment presents an opportunity for renewed energy and commitment, as well as collective accountability to address the obesity and NCDs epidemic which has reached crisis level in South Africa.

It is with great anticipation that the Alliance looks forward to his tenure in the national health department. We believe that through strengthening collaboration with civil society, he will be able to reverse the tide against obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which have a detrimental impact on the quality of lives of South Africans, the healthcare system and economy of the country.

Dr Mkhize should continue the fight against obesity and NCDs as the country cannot afford to ignore the dire impact of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. We look forward to his commitment to placing healthcare on a firm footing for equitable and affordable access for everyone who lives in South Africa and trust that he will instil a culture multi-sectoral approach and response for the scourge of obesity and NCDs.

HEALA is committed to working with the incoming minister and the health department in saving lives and holding the food and beverage industry accountable to the people of South Africa.

HEALA will continue to support the Health Promotion Levy, simply known as the sugary drinks tax, as implemented by National Treasury in April last year to prevent obesity and NCDs. We will also continue to support the health departments to develop and implement progressive health-related policies in general and obesity and NCDs policies in particular.

A statement by the Healthy Living Alliance.
For interviews, please contact:
Thando Lamula
HEALA Communications Coordinator
011 880 0995
thando@heala.org

What’s In My Food

#WHATSINMYFOOD WE NEED CLEAR LABELLING ON FOOD!

21 February 2019 – The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) is launching a campaign that asserts the right of every South African to know what is in the processed food we are eating, and calls on government to help us to do this.

The overall message of the #whatsinmyfood campaign is that South Africans have the right to know what’s in our food. The campaign aims to raise awareness and encourage dialogue among ordinary South Africans about the harmful contents of unhealthy food sold by the food and beverage industry.

There is a direct link between the excessive consumption of foods high salt, sugar and saturated fat and obesity and related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, strokes, heart disease and some cancers.

Sbongile Nkosi, Executive Director at HEALA said: “The objective of the campaign is to get people to realise that a lot of the everyday processed food they are eating is unhealthy, and that there is a correlation between eating unhealthy food and poor health. We want everyone to begin to scrutinize the contents of their food, and particularly to cut down on foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat.”

According to a 2016 Lancet study, South Africa is the most obese nation in sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 40% of women and 11% of men are obese and over two-thirds (69.3%) of women and 39% of men are overweight. Obesity is one of the top five risk factors for early death and disability in the country. In addition, 1.6 million South African children are considered obese and the condition is growing at a much faster amongst kids than adults1.

The study further reveals that obesity is linked to the development of chronic non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes, which are among the top 10 causes of death in South Africa, accounting for 43% of deaths1.

“The availability of unhealthy food combined with aggressive marketing and advertising and incomprehensible food labels, disempowers the consumer from making healthy food choices,” said Nkosi.

“It is the responsibility of the food and beverage industry to clearly disclose the contents of the food they produce, market and supply to the public.

“We require government to create policies and laws to ensure that the food and beverage industry provides South Africans with the clear and accurate information they need to make better food choices for themselves and their families,” she added.

The campaign kicks off on 24 February with national television, radio and print advertisements that aim to alert ordinary South Africans that many of the foods that are part of their daily diets are high in sugar, salt and saturated fat. It and will run nationally for 6 weeks on TV, radio and print media.

Linked to the campaign is a microsite (www.whatsinmyfood.org.za.) that will feature simplified nutrition information on popular packaged foods and beverages, with a pledge for visitors urging government to put in place policies that call for clear food labels and hold industry accountable for the harmful ingredients in the food they supply.

People can support and benefit from the campaign by engaging in social media conversations using the #whatsinmyfood, visiting the microsite and taking the pledge at www.whatsinmyfood.org.za

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For more information, please contact:

Thando Lamula
Communications and Advocacy Coordinator, HEALA
thando@heala.org
074 363 9271

About HEALA

HEALA is an advocacy group aimed at improving the health of South Africans and creating a healthier food environment for all by empowering South Africans to make healthier food and lifestyle choices to prevent non-communicable diseases.

Facebook: Healthy Living Alliance – HEALA
Twitter: @heala_SA

References

  1. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19·2 million participants. The Lancet. 2016; 387(10026): 1377-96)
  2. Pillay-van Wyk V, Msemburi W, Laubscher R, Dorrington RE, Groenewald P, Glass T, et al. Mortality trends and differentials in South Africa from 1997 to 2012: second National Burden of Disease.

Media Release

HEALA TAKES #WHATSINMYFOOD CAMPAIGN TO GAUTENG SCHOOLS

4 March 2019 – As part of the #WhatsInMyFood campaign HEALA has partnered with 30 schools across Johannesburg to create healthier school environments. Last week, HEALA visited schools in Soweto and Tembisa, where 150 learners participated in discussions around healthy food choices. Learners in each school also came up with solutions on how schools could offer healthier options.

Invited learners were asked to design their own healthy school food environment campaigns and deliver their presentations to their peers and HEALA.

Thando Lamula, HEALA Communications and Advocacy Coordinator said: “The aim is to educate learners about their rights to know what is in their food, the negative health implications of eating unhealthily and to raise awareness on healthy food alternatives.

“The learners showed great enthusiasm for the campaign and were eager to learn about the benefits of eating healthily and healthy food alternatives. Their presentations demonstrated a keen interest in healthier food environments for their schools.”

In 2018 HEALA conducted an audit of the food environment at 61 schools in Soweto and the East Rand, covering 62,883 learners. The aim of the audit was to investigate what food primary and high school learners consume at schools by looking at the school nutrition programmes and what was being sold at tuck-shops and by vendors. The results of which revealed excessive unhealthy food consumption and eating habits among the learners.

The recently launched #WhatsInMyFood Campaign calls for clear labelling on food so as to empower South Africans to make healthier food choices. The campaign aims to campaign is to shift South African’s perception of what is and isn’t healthy and in addition encourage dialogue among South Africans about the harmful contents of unhealthy food sold by the food and beverage industry.

Children are especially vulnerable to the current unhealthy food environment. 1.6 million South African children are considered obese and the condition is rising at a much faster rate than compared to adults.

Obesity is linked to the development of chronic non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes, which are among the top 10 causes of death in South Africa, accounting for 43% of deaths1.

For more on the #WhatsInMyFood Campaign visit whatsinmyfood.org.za.

Ends

For more information, please contact

Thando Lamula
Communications and Advocacy Coordinator, HEALA
thando@heala.org
074 363 9271

About HEALA 

HEALA is an advocacy group aimed at improving the health of South Africans and creating a healthier food environment for all by empowering South Africans to make healthier food and lifestyle choices to prevent non-communicable diseases.

Facebook: Healthy Living Alliance – HEALA
Twitter: @heala_SA 

NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19·2 million participants. The Lancet. 2016; 387(10026): 1377-96)

Lawrence New Appointment

HEALA APPOINTS NEW PROGRAMMES MANAGER

23 April 2019 – Lawrence Mbalati has been appointed the new head of the Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA), effective 15 April 2019.

In his new role, Lawrence will develop and drive the strategy for a robust campaign seeking to achieve policy reform in obesity and NCD-related issues in South Africa.

Lawrence has over 14 years’ experience in community and health systems strengthening, community mobilization, policy advocacy, lobbying, human rights and project management.
His illustrious career started at the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), pioneering access to treatment in Limpopo and other South African provinces during the dark years of AIDS denial.
He later joined the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) to promote respect for and the protection of rights to bodily autonomy and integrity for all in order to reduce inequality, especially gender inequality and promote health, dignity and wellbeing in Southern and East Africa. He also worked in the Public Health, Humanitarian and Community Technical support space with the South African Red Cross Society (SARCS), Society for Family Health (SFH) and Beyond Zero.

Lawrence holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Science and an Advance Certificate in Project Management, both from the University of South Africa (UNISA).
“I am thrilled to join this vibrant organisation and hard-working team. I am looking forward to significantly contributing to the organisational vision, advocacy and campaigns for turning the tide against obesity and NCDs,” said Mbalati.

He takes over from former HEALA Executive Director, Sibongile Nkosi, who was at the helm of the organisation for a year.
Ends.

About HEALA

HEALA is an advocacy group aimed at improving the health of South Africans and creating a healthier food environment for all by empowering South Africans to make healthier food and lifestyle choices to prevent non-communicable diseases

HPL Anniversary Press Release

A YEAR OF THE HEALTH PROMOTION LEVY

1st April 2019 marks a year since the introduction of the sugary drinks tax, also known as the health promotion levy. The 11% tax was implemented as a means to mitigate the rising and shocking rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.

Revenue generated from the health promotion levy is set to fund health promotion and NCD programmes.

National Treasury Spokesperson Jabulane Mulambo said: “By the end of January 2019, the health promotion levy had raised R2,715 million. The revenue numbers for February 2019 are still to be verified and will be published before end of March, and the full financial results will only become available after the close of financial year – sometime in April.”

According to the National Department of Health a portion of the revenue has already been invested in cancer research.

“The levy, which is applied to all non-alcoholic drinks with added sugar or flavouring, syrups and other concentrates, cocoa powder and malt extract, and non-alcoholic beer is a step in the right direction in fighting the scourge of obesity in the South Africa.

“While HEALA considers the implementation of the 11% levy on sugary drinks a year ago a milestone for country, we will continue to advocate for an increase to 20% in order for the levy to have a significant impact as recommended by the WHO,” said Thando Lamula, HEALA Communications Coordinator.

A 20% tax on sugary drinks is estimated to reduce obesity by 3.8% in men and 2.4% in women, resulting in 220,000 fewer obese adults. There are significant healthcare cost savings for the government as well as for South African families. It is estimated that this tax may avert approximately 72,000 deaths, 55,0000 stroke-related health-adjusted life years, and over R5 billion in healthcare costs over 20 years.

Evidence shows that in jurisdictions where it has been implemented, sugary drinks taxes made an impact and lowered consumption of sugary beverages.

In Mexico purchases of sugary drinks fell by 6% in the first year of the tax. After the tax was implemented, Mexico experienced a significant reduction in sugary drink purchases, increases in water purchases, and no change in total employment.

South Africa is currently leading the obesity statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa, and our numbers speak for themselves. Almost 70% of women and 39% of men are overweight or obese, with the condition growing at a much rapid rate among children than adults.

Obesity is linked to the development of NCDs such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes, which are among the top 10 causes of death and disability, accounting for 43% of deaths in the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the consumption of sugary drinks as a major cause of obesity, diabetes and dental caries and the taxing of sugary drinks is one of the best strategies to discourage intake. South Africans are listed among the top 10 consumers of sugary drinks in the world.

Recent claims by the sugar industry blaming the sugary drinks tax for job losses in the industry remain unsubstantiated.

The sugar industry has been in crisis for more than a decade. The facts are clear:

  • The world sugar price halved between 2009 and 2014 (from about US$600/ton to about US$300/ ton).
  • The EU reduced its the export quota for sugar, which many southern African sugar producers had access to under the Lomé Convention, from US$524/ton in 2009 to US$335/ton in 2014.
  • Sugar production in South Africa has dropped by around 33% between 2002 and 2012.
  • Illovo reduced its workforce by 25% between 2009 and 2014.
  • Three successive droughts have had a significant impact on cane production.

Three major sugar corporations – Tongaat Hullet, Illovo and Transvaal Suiker Beperk (TSB) – account for 90% of sugar production in the SADC region.

These three corporations have protected their profit base by increasingly outsourcing sugar cane growing to small farmers – called out-growers – who assume all the risk and have borne the brunt of successive droughts. The proliferation of black small-scale sugar cane growers has benefited the industry far more than most farmers. In the 1990s, there were about 50,000 small farmers but this has plunged to 20,500 registered small growers as drought and debt have taken their toll.

Today, Illovo and Tongaat Hulett both source more cane from other sub-Saharan countries than South Africa because labour costs are cheaper. Regional production of sugar cane totaled 36 million tons in 2012, and South Africa’s share of total regional production dropped from 60% in 1992 to 40% in 2012. This is the cause of local job losses, not the health promotion levy.

Ends.

About HEALA

HEALA is an alliance of civil society organizations and individuals aimed at improving the health of South Africans and creating a healthier food environment for all by empowering South Africans to make healthier food and lifestyle choices to prevent non-communicable diseases. Its current member organisations are: Health-e News Services, Health Promotion and Development Foundation, Khulisa Social Solutions, Rural Health Advocacy Project, Section 27, South African Dental Association (SADA), South African Paediatric Association (SAPA), Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA), Amandla.mobi and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

Facebook: Healthy Living Alliance – HEALA
Twitter: @heala_SA

References:

  1. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19·2 million participants. The Lancet. 2016; 387(10026): 1377-96)
  2. Pillay-van Wyk V, Msemburi W, Laubscher R, Dorrington RE, Groenewald P, Glass T, et al. Mortality trends and differentials in South Africa from 1997 to 2012: second National Burden of Disease.
  3. World Health Organization. FIscal policies for diet and the prevention of noncommunicable diseases. Geneva: WHO,, 2016.
  4. Manyema M, Veerman LJ, Tugendhaft A, Labadarios D, Hofman KJ. Modelling the potential impact of a sugar-sweetened beverage tax on stroke mortality, costs and health-adjusted life years in South Africa. BMC Public Health. 2016; 16(1): 405.
  5. Colchero MA, Popkin BM, Rivera JA, Ng SW. Beverage purchases from stores in Mexico under the excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages: observational study. BMJ. 2016; 352.
  6. 55. Colchero MA, Salgado JC, Unar-Munguía M, Molina M, Ng S, Rivera-Dommarco JA. Changes in Prices After an Excise Tax to Sweetened Sugar Beverages Was Implemented in Mexico: Evidence from Urban Areas. PLoS ONE. 2015; 10(12): e0144408.
  7. Guerrero-López CM MM, Juan A. Rivera, Colchero MA.,. Employment changes associated with the implementation of the sugar-sweetened beverage and the nonessential energy dense food taxes in Mexico. In: Mexico NIoPHo, editor. Cuernevaca; 2016.
  8. Colchero MA, Rivera-Dommarco J, Popkin BM, Ng SW. In Mexico, Evidence Of Sustained Consumer Response Two Years After Implementing A Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax. Health Affairs. 2017; 36(3): 564-71.
  9. Ng SW JR, BM Popkin, MA Colchero. . Did high purchasers respond differently to the excise tax to sugar sweetened beverages in Mexico. Cuernevaca and Chapel Hill: INSP-UNC; 2016.
  10. Alex Dubb (2015). Dynamics of decline in small-scale sugarcane production in South Africa: evidence from two ‘rural’ wards in the Umfolozi region. Land Use Policy 48, 362 – 376 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.06.029
  11. Alex Dubb (2016) The Rise and Decline of Small-Scale Sugarcane Production in South Africa: A Historical Perspective, Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 16 No. 4, October 2016, pp. 518–542. doi: 10.1111/joac.12107
  12. Alex Dubb, Ian Scoones & Philip Woodhouse (2017) The Political Economy of Sugar in Southern Africa – Introduction, Journal of Southern African Studies, 43:3, 447-470, DOI:10.1080/03057070.2016.1214020 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03057070.2016.1214020
  13. Stephen Greenberg (2017) Corporate power in the agro-food system and the consumer food environment in South Africa, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44:2, 467-496, DOI:10.1080/03066150.2016.1259223
  14. Greenberg et al (2017) ‘Trade, food and nutrition security in South Africa: The cases of sugar and poultry’, Working Paper 46. PLAAS, UWC: Cape Town.
  15. Paul James & Philip Woodhouse (2017) Crisis and Differentiation among Small-Scale Sugar Cane Growers in Nkomazi, South Africa, Journal of Southern African Studies, 43:3, 535-549, DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2016.1197694
  16. Alex Myers, David Fig, Aviva Tugendhaft, Jonathan E Myers & Karen J Hofman (2017): The history of the South African sugar industry illuminates deeply rooted obstacles for sugar reduction anti-obesity interventions, African Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00020184.2017.1311515
  17. Alex Myers, David Fig, Aviva Tugendhaft, Jessie Mandle, Jonathan Myers & Karen Hofman (2015): Sugar and health in South Africa: Potential challenges to leveraging policy change, Global Public Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17441692.2015.1071419
  18. G. Smith, S. Davis, S Madho and A. Chary, ‘Eighty-Eighth Annual Review of the Milling Season in Southern Africa’, Proceedings of the South African Sugar Technologists’ Association, 86 (2013), pp. 24–54.)
  19. Thow et al (2017) ‘Food trade and investment in South Africa: Improving coherence between economic policy, nutrition and food security’, Working Paper 50. PLAAS, UWC: Cape Town