One in 3 South Africans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease and heart disease and hypertension are in listed in top ten causes of death in the country. A 2020 study published in the European Heart Journal – Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes journal highlighted poor diet as one of the leading contributors to heart disease deaths around the world.
The over consumption of an unhealthy diet is one of the leading causes of death for millions of people around the world. Now more than ever, South Africa needs strong evidence based regulations to protect us from life threatening noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
Pre-packaged foods and beverages, high in salt, sugar and saturated fat have increasingly become readily available in virtually every community around the world, with South African shops inundated with these pre-packaged foods that are processed with high levels of added sugars, salt, and saturated fats. Research has found these nutrients are connected to increased obesity and chronic nutrition-related diseases.
“More than six million deaths [globally] could be avoided by reducing intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, trans and saturated fats, and added salt and sugar, “researchers found.
Front of pack warning labels are among the tools recommended by the World Health Organisation aimed at reducing the consumption of foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat. Earlier this year the National Department of Health (NDoH) released for public comment draft regulations on the implementation of mandatory front of pack warning labels. According to the proposed regulations, all foods and beverages that have added salt, sugar or saturated fat and fall within “high in” thresholds or contain any non-sugar sweetener will have a black and white triangle warning on them to alert consumers.
The country cannot afford a delay in the implementation of the mandatory front of pack warning labels regulations. HEALA is calling on key decision makers to prioritise the health of South Africans.
“We calling on the National Department of Health to lead by its own mission “to improve health status through the prevention of illness, disease and the promotion of healthy lifestyles, and to consistently improve the health care delivery system by focusing on access, equity, efficiency, quality and sustainability”,” says Nzama Mbalati, Programmes Manager at HEALA.
The consumption of sugar sweetened beverages has also been linked to an increased risk of heart diseases. In a bold move by the South African government, the country blazed a trail as the first African country to legalise a tax on sugary drinks, in order to reduce the consumption of these products. However, in a series of decisions which favour the sugar industry, including putting a moratorium on an increase of the tax until 2025, National Treasury has threatened the efficacy of the regulation and put people’s health at risk.
“Industry often uses its economic power, lobbying and marketing machinery, and manipulation of the media to discredit scientific research and influence government inaction in order to propagate the sale and distribution of its deadly products. We cannot allow the continuation of putting profits over people,” Mbalati says.
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 about HEALA’s advocacy work, please visit: www.heala.org
Zukiswa Zimela, Communications Manager