South Africa can show BRICS leadership with a new sugar approach

South Africa blazed a trail as the first African country to legalise a tax on sugary drinks, making a bold stand on 1 April 2018. By implementing this pioneering move, we paved the way for a strategy that could reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages significantly.

Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that a carefully designed tax, aimed at increasing the retail price by 20% or more, would result in proportional reductions in consumption, steering citizens towards healthier choices.

READ MORE: WE Can’t Rely On Food and Beverage Industry to Safeguard Our Health.  

Not long after South Africa’s groundbreaking action, other countries, including Botswana and Zambia, followed suit, implementing their own versions of the sugary drinks tax. However, the road to a healthier society has not been smooth. Many African nations have been slow to act, potentially because of resistance from the beverage industry, which has been fighting back vehemently against these new regulations.

South Africa’s courageous step may have set the stage for a broader transformation, sparking a debate on how to combat obesity and promote healthier living. But the struggle against industry pushback and the adaptation of these laws across the continent continues.

This opinion piece was published in the Daily Maverick on the 29th of August 2023

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Press Statement: Food and beverage companies are ‘cereal’ offenders when it comes to targeting children

New research demonstrates that child-directed marketing strategies are used on most South African breakfast cereals. 

“New research from University of the Western Cape, led by researcher Alice S. Khan, exposes how breakfast cereals, which directly market to children, have a lower nutritional value and 96% of the cereals studied had a nutritional health claim. There is an urgent need for regulations to restrict this predatory marketing and to introduce clear front-of-package warning labels on unhealthy products so consumers can make informed decisions,” says Nzama Mbalati Programmes Manager for HEALA.

The research shows that marketing and advertising is a key factor in promoting the consumption of ultra-processed products. Children are highly susceptible to these ads. Food and beverage advertising has remained unregulated even though children’s rights are guaranteed in the South African Constitution.

In this study, the researchers assessed the nutritional composition of 222 breakfast cereals, direct child marketing strategies (i.e., illustrations, characters, fantasy, role models), and indirect marketing to children’s parents (nutritional claims and health claims). Breakfast cereals with direct child marketing strategies had lower levels of protein and fibre and higher total sugar and carbohydrate content than those without direct marketing strategies.

HEALA is calling for the National Department of Health (NDoH) to ensure that there is strict regulation on the marketing of products with front of package warning labels, as this marketing has the potential to influence purchase and consumption of unhealthy products, and until now, has been highly pervasive and unregulated in South Africa. Research shows that mandatory restrictions are necessary to ensure that products do not have child-directed marketing. Promises made by the industry to self-regulate have not been effective in reducing targeted marketing to children.

South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that promotes peoples access to high-quality food in its Constitution. Section 27(1)(b) of the South African Constitution guarantees all the right to sufficient food and commits the state to the progressive realisation of this right. Additionally, Section 28(1)(c) states that every child has the right to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services. Hence its crucial that the State guards against industry practices that seek to reverse the hard earn gains enshrined in our constitution.

Draft Regulation Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs (R3337) furthers South Africa’s commitment to the right to food by regulating how unhealthy products are marketed to children and adults and through introducing front-of-package labels warning of high levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat. The comment period for Draft Regulation 3337 was recently extended until 21 September 2023, we suspect due to the lobbying efforts of the food and beverage industry to stall its implementation.


About HEALA’s advocacy work in South Africa:
HEALA is a coalition of civil society organisations advocating for equitable access to affordable, nutritious food in South Africa by building a more just food system. Because government policy forms a crucial part of the South Africa’s food system, HEALA believes that hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition are policy choices.

HEALA advances the right to food by advocating for more just food systems in South Africa. We do this by acting as a platform for organisations and communities to organise around the realisation of the right to affordable and nutritious food. Through our campaigns, we help amplify the voices of people on the ground to ensure that they are heard by those in power at a local, provincial and national level.

HEALA’s vision is a South Africa in which all people have equitable access to healthy food to unlock their full potential.

For more information HEALA’s advocacy work, please visit:

Media Contact
Zukiswa Zimela, Communications Manager | 0745210652