Press Statement: How we need to think about the right to food this Human Rights Day

Following 30 years of democracy, South Africans are facing a devastating crisis of under and over nutrition with staggering levels of non-communicable diseases. The health of the nation is tied to the ability of ordinary South Africans to realise their right to a healthy life. The Constitution recognizes the right to health and food, and incorporates principles from international treaties which places a duty on states to prevent non-communicable diseases.

A recent study found that South Africans are consuming an excessive amount of ultra-processed food, which is tied to poor health outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. The study shows troubling trends for low-income South Africans: unhealthy ultra-processed foods are a big part of their diets (40%) and younger populations are increasingly shifting towards more unhealthy food that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) believes that South Africans have a right to know what’s in their food, and mandatory ront of package warning labels (FOPWL)  are one way to provide information on which products are high in nutrients of concern. Implementing FOPWL as soon as possible can help to reduce the portion of South Africans’ diets, which is ultra-processed.

“We need policies to help South Africans eat less unhealthy food. Interventions like the proposed front-of-pack warning label, which will give consumers information if the food they are eating contains too many ‘bad’ ingredients, are cost-effective and empowering ways to change eating habits. Taxes on products like sodas are a double win – more public funds and less sugar in our already diabetic-prone society,” says HEALA Programmes Manager Petronell Kruger.

HEALA has been calling for access to good nutrition. Policies are needed to guarantee fair access, availability, and affordability of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, particularly for low-income populations to make sure more South Africans are not suffering from hunger. Revenue raised from the Health Promotion Levy (which target sodas) could be allocated to provide subsidies on healthy foods.

Because government policy forms a crucial part of South Africa’s food system, HEALA believes that hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition are policy choices and government needs to play its part in protecting ordinary South Africans.

About HEALA: 

HEALA is a coalition of civil society organisations that advocates for equitable access to affordable and nutritious food for all in South Africa.

For interview requests please call 

Zukiswa Zimela, Communications Manager HEALA

Zukiswa[at] | +2710 825 4403