South Africa mulls tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, WHO welcomes move

This is one of the interventions proposed in the country’s strategy for 2015-2020 for prevention and control of obesity

By Karnika Bahuguna
Last Updated: Thursday 09 February 2017

The South African government is considering the introduction of tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to help reduce excessive sugar intake. The World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed the move.

This is one of the interventions proposed in the country’s strategy for 2015-2020 for prevention and control of obesity. A parliamentary hearing was organised on January 31 to discuss the proposed tax where WHO’s Representative to South Africa, Rufaro Chatora, highlighted the evidence and impact of tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.

“Experience from other countries, which implemented the same tax, demonstrates its potential to reduce consumption of sugar and raise revenues that can be used to prevent and control diabetes, obesity and other non-communicable diseases,” the WHO said in a release.

WHO member states have asked for more information on such interventions to prevent and control non-communicable diseases ahead of the upcoming World Health Assembly.

According to WHO, non-communicable diseases are responsible for 16 million deaths every year under 70 years of age. Taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages is just one of a range of cost-effective measures proposed by the international health agency to curb the threat of diseases.

Other interventions targeting obesity include nutrition labeling, marketing restrictions of unhealthy food and beverages when it comes to children, fruit and vegetable subsidies, physical activity policies and social marketing campaigns.

WHO member states, including South Africa, are committed to halt the rise of obesity and diabetes as well as reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by 25 per cent by 2025.

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