• Food Policy
  • Press Releases

In congratulating both Ministers, HEALA also urges them to prioritise the implementation of evidence-based policies that will address the triple burden of hunger, food insecurity, and obesity – and ultimately improve the health of ordinary South Africans. 

To date, South Africa faces alarming levels of hunger, food insecurity, and obesity stemming from a broken food system. Globally, ultra-processed foods high in salt, sugar, and fat are more available than ever before, particularly in low and middle-income countries such as South Africa. Diets high in these components significantly increase the risk of people developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. 

According to Statistics South Africa, more and more people are dying from NCDs than ever before. Diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease rank among the top ten leading causes of natural deaths in South Africa, based on the latest figures from 2017.

“HEALA particularly wishes for the Health Minister, Dr Motsoaledi, to speed up regulation on food labelling to assist ordinary South Africans in making informed food choices, to initiate coordinated mechanisms and resource mobilisation towards government and civil society as well as support improvement of the school food environment, champion taxation and regulation of unhealthy products such as sugary drinks, tobacco and alcohol,” says HEALA CEO Nzama Mbalati. 

HEALA believes the government has ample evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of the Health Promotion Levy (HPL) and Front-of-Pack Warning Labels (FOPL) in addressing many of the health issues plaguing ordinary South Africans.

Previous HPL evidence has shown that public health policies, which increase the price of harmful products, can reduce consumption. However, there is potential to do even more. Government can allocate the funds generated from the levy towards addressing issues of hunger and poverty by increasing the Child Grant and subsidising healthier foods.  

HEALA calls on Finance Minister Mr Godongwana to protect the gains made by the levy by increasing it to 20%, and expanding it to include fruit juices. We also urge Health Minister Dr Motsoaledi to fast-track the implementation of easy-to-read warning labels and empower ordinary South Africans to make better food choices.

In South Africa, essential nutritional information is buried at the back of canned products, boxes, and bottles, making it difficult for consumers to read or decipher the food labels. Implementing front-of-package labelling can translate necessary nutritional information into simple language and prominently display it on the front of food products.

The FOPL regulation will also protect children from predatory marketing practices employed by food manufacturers who use fancy marketing strategies to seduce vulnerable children into being addicted to unhealthy food.

The South African health system is buckling under the weight of NCDs. Two years ago, researchers found that “overweight and obesity cost South Africa’s health system R33 billion (US$1.9bn) a year. This represents 15.38% of government health expenditure and is equivalent to 0.67% of GDP. Annual per person cost of overweight and obesity was R2 769”. The cost of inaction in addressing this issue for both the state and the individual is too high. 

 HEALA remains committed to holding government leaders accountable for their responsibility in ensuring that the food environment benefits ordinary people rather than industry profits.

We are calling on the newly elected ministers to put food justice on the political agenda and create a healthier, more equitable future for all South Africans.

“HEALA is confident in Dr Motsoaledi’s expertise, enthusiasm and the political will he demonstrated in his previous tenure as Health Minister,  during which he prioritised pivotal public health policies and initiatives aimed at improving the health of all South Africans,” concludes Mbalati. 

Ends.

About HEALA: 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.

For media interviews contact

Zukiswa Zimela | HEALA Communications Manager

zukiswa[@]heala.org