Myth-busting the new sugar tax – Health-e News

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the sugar tax which was officially implemented on April 1st. The tax, equivalent to a levy of about 11 percent on a can of coke, is aimed at tackling South Africa’s obesity epidemic and the diseases associated with it. Health-e News busted five common myths.

Why tax sugary drinks because:

  1. Jobs will be lost hurting the South African economy

Industry has repeatedly published different estimates for how many jobs will be lost across the sugary beverage food chain. In May last year Beverage Association of South Africa (BevSA) said that they anticipate job losses in the region of 24 000. They had also previously claimed that up to 72 000 people could lose their jobs across the value chain. But Treasury published a report in June estimating job losses could be as low as 1475. But public health advocates argue that small short-term losses are dwarfed by the substantial cost to the economy of treating lifestyle diseases. Last month Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi pointed out that “[y]ou cannot dream of growing your economy without good health”.

  1. The health of South Africans is not affected by sugar

South Africans have increasingly been higher-than-average consumers of sugar and sweetened beverages. A study published as far back as 2007 in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition found that South African toddlers in urban areas drank more sugary drinks than milk. We also have rapidly increasing rates of obesity, being the fattest nation in sub-Saharan Africa, and the diseases linked to it. Diabetes now kills more women than any other disease. Drinking just one sugary drink a day increases the risk of being overweight by 27 percent for adults and 52 percent for children, according to a 2009 study published in the same journal. Moreover, a 2012 study published in Circulation found that drinking one to two fizzy drinks a day can increase one’s risk of developing diabetes by more than 25 percent.

  1. The tax won’t reduce consumption

A number of other countries and areas within countries have instituted sugar taxes amid claims that the intervention won’t have any public health effect as people will continue to drink the same amount of fizzy drinks. Mexico introduced a 10 percent tax on sugary drinks in 2014 and saw a 7.6 percent decrease in sales of sugary drinks and an upturn in sales of bottled water within two years, according to 2017 study led by researchers from the University of North Carolina. It also found that consumption reduced the most in poor communities, which is significant because lifestyle diseases can be financially catastrophic to poor families with less access to healthcare.

  1. Eating sugar is the same as drinking sugar

Many have criticised the tax because it doesn’t address the sugar people consume in food products which also contributes to the rise in obesity, but liquid sugar has been found to be more dangerous than the solid version. Drinking calories in the form of sugar instead of eating it can leave people feeling less full, found a 2010 study in the International Journal of Obesity. Eating a muffin or cake, for example, will leave a person more satiated than drinking a cool drink which could lead to the consumption of more calories to achieve a feeling of fullness. Researchers from Penn State University found that people who drank a sugary beverage with their meal consumed on average more than 100 calories more than those who did not, identifying sugary beverages as an independent risk-factor for obesity.

  1. Industry wants to help solve the obesity problem

Industry fiercely fought the implementation of the tax through a fear-inspiring job losses media campaign, including paying for a study to be conducted and by lobbying workers and government. But they have also publicly said they want to work with government to tackle obesity. When the Healthy Living Alliance protested outside of Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Johannesburg last year Maserame Mouyeme head of Public Affairs, Communication and Sustainability said that “we want to fight obesity” and “work with you in the process of finding a solution”. But industry bodies like BevSA continue to ignore the independent health risks sugary drinks pose to South African consumers while companies have consistently targeted poorer communities to increase their sales. Research from Priority Cost-Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening South Africa, based at Wits University, noted that Coca-Cola, the country’s largest soft-drink franchise, has identified its future growth strategy targeting those falling under the living standards measure (LSM) of one to six “with a specific focus on LSM 1–3” – the poorest consumers. The beverage industry also spends more than R500 million a year on advertising sugary drinks, “including other promotions that appeal to kids”, according to 2017 data from market research company Nielsen AdEx. This marketing does not include education around the risks of sugar or how much these products contribute to the recommended daily intake of sugar. Just one 500ml bottle of a typical soft-drink in South Africa contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar, almost double the six teaspoons per day recommended by the World Health Organisation. – Health-e News

Kids Consume Up To 200% More Sugar Than Recommended

Written for Health-e News



Written By: Thabo Molelekwa

Liquid sugar is easily absorbed, and most of the sugar from sweetened beverages has no nutritional value beyond the sugar content.

The fact that sugary drinks are a major cause of obesity and diabetes came into focus at the recent Cardio Vascular Disease Imbizo in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Speaking at the Imbizo Lynn Moeng Mahlangu, the cluster manager of Health Promotion and Nutrition at the National Department of Health, said that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or SSBs has strongly been linked with type 2 diabetes.

“In 2013 the Department of Health developed a strategy to tackle non-communicable diseases, and one of the keys was to reduce sugar intake by 10%,” she said.

Moeng Mahlangu said that South Africa is in the top three countries in Africa when it comes to people living with obesity.

She said one of the reasons for this is the high cost of healthy food.

“People choose healthy products because they are cheaper,” said Moeng Mahlangu.

“This is one of the debates we are having, involving other departments like agriculture,” she said.

“Our children are consuming 40-to-60 grams of sugar a day. This means their intake is between 100 and 200% more than they should,” she said.

Obesity in children

She said this was a dangerous situation as obese children generally tended to remain obese throughout life, and much of this was due to the consumption of sugary drinks.

According to Professor Karen Sliwa, director of the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa and president-elect of the World Heart Federation, there is overwhelming data to confirm that a very high sugar intake has a negative impact on health.

“It is bad in many ways. It makes us obese, especially when we don’t move enough,” she said.

“You can develop diabetes, high blood pressure, you can develop heart disease or have a stroke,” said Sliwa, adding that these factors can lead to long periods of ill health or early death.

According to Sliwa, implementing a tax on sugar tax is one way of trying to combat this disease, as making SSBs more expensive would drive down consumption.

“By decreasing the amount of sugar in beverages we can address some of those issues,” she said, adding that a sugar tax alone was not enough to address the problem properly.

“Although the sugar beverage tax will hopefully show the same results experienced in other countries where it saw a decrease in obesity, the core issues around poverty still needed to be looked at,”said Sliwa.

She said it was important for government to take the lead and make South Africa one of the first countries in Africa to implement the tax.

Sliwa said that educating the people on healthy living was important.

“Some people don’t know that if you are short of breath it can mean that your heart is failing. People don’t know that there is no cure for diabetes and that you always have to take your medication,” she said.

Professor Liesl Zuhlke, President of the South African Heart Association said the health of children needed to be made a priority.

“If you are fat at 13 years, its possible that you will stay fat until you are old,” she said, explaining why children needed to be taught to make good choices for themselves.

Politicians aid industry in dirty war over sugar tax

Written by: Kerry Cullinan
For: Health-e News

For over 18 months, the sugar and beverage industries have had the help of politicians to wage war against a proposed tax on sugary drinks in a microcosm of all that is rotten in this country. But the fight is not yet over.

Yunus Carrim, chair of the Standing Committee on Finance and Lindelwa Dunjwa, chair of the Portfolio Committee on Health, get a petition from HEALAs Fatz Simjee and Tracey Malawana

In Colombia, activists proposing a tax on sugary drinks have been harassed and physically threatened. In Mexico, their mobile phones were infected with spyware developed by the Israeli government. But in South Africa – nothing.

The beverage and sugar industries didn’t need to bother with the small but vocal group of activists aligned to the Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) who were in favour of the tax. Instead, they went directly to politicians, especially those with bendy backbones and open pockets.

But Yunus Carrim, chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance, didn’t bend. And last week, he stood up in Parliament and revealed that he had received threatening phone calls from people linked to industry, telling him to drop the tax (now called the Health Promotion Levy) contained in the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill.

“There were various interventions, including as late as last night, to get us to drop this Bill. And of course it comes from people to are connected to the industry,” said Carrim

WATCH: Extract of Carrim’s speech here

Shortly after Carrim’s speech, the National Assembly passed the Bill, which also contains the all the changes to income tax and excise duties announced in the February Budget and it was referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

NCOP’s ‘unusual move’

As it is a money bill, the NCOP can delay but not prevent the passing of the Rates Bill – and it has done just that. The ANC’s Charel de Beer, chairperson of the NCOP’s Select Committee on Finance, has quietly allowed the Beverage Association of SA (BevSA), which represents Coca Cola and most sugary drinks owners, and Tiger Brands to make presentations to his committee tomorrow (Tues 28th). The NCOP will then vote on the Bill during the last week of Parliament, and if it proposes any amendments, these will have to go back to the National Assembly next year.

HEALA members protesting outside Coca Cola in Johannesburg on World Diabetes Day.














“Allowing only the losing side of the contested Health Promotion Levy to make a submission to the NCOP Select Committee on Finance is a most unusual move,” said Gaile Fullard, Executive Director of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group.

“One could call it a hijacking of the legislative process for this Bill as there have never been hearings on tax bills in the NCOP. It will be interesting to watch this play out – to see if there is a sudden change of mind by a majority in the Committee. Any NCOP amendment would mean it has to go back to the National Assembly for approval.”

De Beer failed to respond to questions about whether he had been under pressure from ANC heavyweights to allow industry representatives into his committee or received any financial offers or rewards from the industry.

Wrong for politicians

Tracey Malawana, co-ordinator of HEALA, was furious about De Beer’s decision: “I have protested to the chairperson and told him that we will also be coming to his committee and we also demand the right to present,” said Malawana. “Sugary drinks are killing our people. The beverage industry has a lot of money to market their products and influence politicians. But diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks, strokes and cancer are all increasing because of poor diet, especially sugary drinks.”

De Beer is likely to have fallen victim to the same people who tried to get Carrim to drop the levy. Carrim confirmed to Health-e that the people who had been trying to get him to drop the tax were well-known, but he wouldn’t name them: “It’s unfortunate that senior politicians with business interests or linked with those with business interests in the industry constantly tried to stop the Bill going ahead,” said Carrim.

“It is just wrong for politicians to try to shape legislation to serve their own business interests or those of businesses they’re connected with. The ANC is very clear about this, but needs to act more decisively against those who transgress. And most of those who intervened were so predictable.”

Initially, it looked as if industry would follow the same game plan in South Africa as in other countries that have introduced the tax – sponsoring researchers, journalists and fake community organisations to oppose it.

Leaked Coke emails

Leaked emails show that Coca Cola views a sugar tax as one of the biggest threats to its business. Hamish Banks, Vice-President of Public Affairs and Communication for Coca Cola Eurasia and Africa, outlined Coke’s three-point “fight back” messaging strategy in an emailon 18 April 2016 as: “Taxes don’t work in solving obesity challenges; They have unforeseen economic and societal impact; The industry is already taking steps to mitigate the consumption of excessive amounts of sugar through packaging, reformulation, and active promotion of lower calorie variants.”

This was the script followed by industry and its allies in South Africa, with particular emphasis on job losses. In September last year, an economic research organisation, Oxford Economics, released an alarming report commissioned by BevSA which claimed up to 72,000 jobs would be lost if the tax was introduced.

At a consultative meeting called by Treasury in early November 2016, members of the Tshebedisano Support Network, an Alexandra-based organisation of small businesses, and the Free Market Foundation’s Leon Louw, turned up wearing the same anti-tax T-shirts. An emotional Silas Hermans from Tshebedisano threatened mass marches in KwaZulu-Natal, the heartland of sugar farming. The sugar and beverage sectors were there in full force, supported by McKinsey

In December, Fin24 exposed the fact that Coca Cola had paid the Institute of Race Relations to produce research questioning whether the tax would work.

Anti-tax blogs and articles started to appear, mostly in the business pages, and BevSA placed anti-tax advertisements in national newspapers. Meanwhile, Coca Cola spent around R170-million on marketing in 2016.

Extensive consultation

But in 2017, the industry’s appetite for public mobilization waned, as it turned its attention to lobbying key policy makers. From early 2017, Carrim and Lindelwa Dunjwa, chair of the Portfolio Committee on Health – both members of the Central Committee members of the SA Communist Party (SACP) – facilitated one of the most extensive consultations on a proposed tax that South Africa has ever seen. There were four parliamentary hearings plus an extensive negotiation process in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

But a concerted attack on the tax was being organised from within the ANC itself, led by MPs Pinky Kekana and Peace Mabe, with the ANC Women’s League as the battering ram.”

“We were excruciatingly aware of the need to reduce job losses and the impact on emerging African cane-growers, and we sought to find balances between these interests and the health interests of the country,” explained Carrim. “We had extensive public hearings both before the Bill was brought to Parliament and after, and referred the matter to Nedlac to seek to reduce the differences among the contending stakeholders, and we allowed people to engage with the issues, as our Committee usually does, until shortly before voting in the Committee on it.”

Even Cosatu was relatively satisfied, with official Matthew Parks saying that “this is the first time that a tax has been negotiated at Nedlac”.

Attack on tax led by ANC MPs

But a concerted attack on the tax was being organised from within the ANC itself, led by MPs Pinky Kekana and Peace Mabe, with the ANC Women’s League as the battering ram. Kekana, a member of the ANCWL Working Committee, has never hidden her opposition to the tax. At the final finance committee meeting on the matter a few weeks back, she could barely contain her anger after the committee had voted that the Bill was ready to be sent to the National Assembly for the vote.

Kekana has a history of using her position to facilitate favours. While she was Transport MEC in Limpopo, her friend Julius Malema (at the time ANCYL President) scored tenders worth millions of rands from the transport department. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Kekana had “acted improperly” after she had arranged for a traffic officer to arrest one of Malema’s rivals but she was never investigated for facilitating Malema’s tenders.

Meanwhile, Mabe, an apologist for both Jacob Zuma and Dudu Miyeni, was ordered out of the National Assembly last year after it was found that she had been sworn in as a councillor in Mogale City in Gauteng without resigning as an MP.

On May 30 – the night before a parliamentary hearing on the tax – the ANCWL jumped into play, issuing a statement calling for the tax to be withdrawn.

Coke’s BEE offer

“Government must look at other mechanisms such as instructing sweetened beverage companies to reformulate their products and reduce the sugar content,” said ANCWL General secretary Meokgo Matuba. “The fight against obesity and non-communicable diseases must be intensified but not at the expense of job loss and economic marginalisation of black people who are in sugarcane growing sector and milling industry”.

A few weeks later – and two days before the start of the ANC’s national policy conference on 30 June – Coca-Cola Beverages SA (CCBSA) announced that it was committed to increasing its black economic empowerment (BEE) stake to 30 percent by 2021 and would engage with local partners who might be interested in a multimillion rand stake.

At the ANC policy conference, Kekana was instrumental in persuading the Economic Transformation Commission to recommend that the tax be scrapped on the basis that it would cost jobs and undermine transformation. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and MP Thandi Tobias had to intervene from the floor during the plenary to reinstate the party’s support of the tax as part of government’s plan to cut obesity by 10 percent by 2020.

Tobias, a former deputy minister during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, has diabetes herself and was a vocal supporter of the tax in the finance committee. At one meeting, she chastised MPs who did not support the tax, reminding them that they were not the ones that had to queue for hours at government clinics to get their chronic medication.

Skyrocketing obesity

Milton Buthelezi with his family.

Derek Hanekom, who joined the finance committee after being removed as Tourism Minister, has also been a vocal supporter of the tax, and at one stage remarked: “You don’t try not to reduce car accidents just because tow truck drivers are going to lose their jobs”. ANC MPs in the Portfolio Committee on Health have also generally strongly supported the tax.

But South Africa is at the start of a massive epidemic of non-communicable diseases and – as at the start of the HIV epidemic – many policy makers cannot yet seem the health crisis we are in, despite the fact that diabetes has become the biggest killer of South African women.

However, Treasury’s Deputy Director General Ismail Momoniat and senior economist Mpho Legote were persuaded of the importance of the tax some years back, when presented with solid evidence from PRICELESS, a health economics think-tank based at Wits University, that this is the most cost-effective intervention to curb obesity.

Obesity-related diseases have skyrocketed over the past few years, with medical aids reporting a 68 percent increase in diabetes just in eight years, and public health clinics reported seeing 10,000 new diabetes cases every month in 2016.

Tax is inevitable

Submissions to parliament from health academics were unanimous about the ruinous effects of a diet high in sugar on the health of South Africans. This even prompted the DA’s Wilmot James, then shadow health minister and firmly pro-industry, to declare that the academics had “colluded” – clearly misunderstanding the evidence-based nature of science.

Even industry – bar one lonely sugar industry representative – admitted that diets high in sugar were unhealthy and that obesity was a serious problem.

Despite the NCOP’s clumsy delaying tactics, it is inevitable that the tax on sugary drinks will eventually be passed by Parliament. But there is yet another hurdle: President Zuma has to sign the Bill into law and his susceptibility to business “persuasion” is well documented.

However, government is also desperately short of cash so Zuma might see the revenue as yet another cash cow to be milked. If the Health Promotion Levy does get implemented on 1 April 2018 as Treasury plans, civil society will need to monitor whether the proceeds actually do get spent on health promotion. – Health-e News.

* BevSA failed to repond to any questions about its lobbying tactics, including whether it had paid MPs to support the tax. Kekana and Mabe also failed to respond to queries about whether they had received any financial support or offers for their lobbying efforts.

Health-e News – Parliament Finally Ready to Vote on Sugary Drinks Tax

Comment from SANCDA: Please note the Bill containing the SSB tax was passed by the Standing Committee on Finance yesterday with only 2 more steps (National Assembly and Council of Provinces) to go. Then the Health Promotion Levy will be part of a bundle of financial measures to be implemented on 1 April 2017. The rate is approximately half of what was originally proposed but still represents a good starting point for the battle on obesity and unwanted sugar.

HEALA public awareness campaign: Are you drinking yourself sick?


The Standing Committee on Finance voted yesterday (7 November) to adopt the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of the Revenue Laws Bill, which includes the sugary drinks tax.

The Bill will go first to the National Assembly then to the National Council of Provinces before the month is out.

“We know everyone has grievances [against the tax] but this was the best we could do with the current balance of forces,” said committee chairperson Yunus Carrim. “We can’t tell its impact yet, so Parliament will need regular reports on the impact of the tax on job losses and on health.”

‘First time’

The committee has overseen four public hearings as well as an elaborate negotiation process in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

“This is the first time in 23 years that a tax law has been negotiated in Nedlac,” said Cosatu’s Matthew Parks.

Parks said the federation was pleased that government had made concessions on its original proposal of a 20 percent tax on all sugary drinks.

“Government has reduced the tax to 10 percent, exempted the first 4g of sugar per 100ml and excluded 100 percent pure fruit juices from the tax,” said Parks.

“Nedlac has adopted a jobs plan to mitigate against job losses. There has been an underlying crisis in the sugar industry since 2000 and around 20,000 jobs have already been lost, mainly because of cheap sugar being imported,” said Parks. “The jobs plan negotiated in Nedlac includes that the import tariff on sugar must be increased and that government must help small sugar farmers.”

Health promotion levy

We are confident that members of parliament will put the health of the millions of people who elected them before the narrow interests of the beverage and sugar industries and pass the bill as it stands.”

Other measures include an undertaking by the beverage industry to manufacture the labels for its plastic bottles in South Africa and to use locally produced phosphate in its production.

However, Parks said that Cosatu supported the health goal of the tax – which has been renamed a ‘health promotion levy’.

“There needs to be a meaningful commitment from government to ensure that the income foes towards health,” said Parks. “The Department of Health needs to have a public education campaign, particularly in schools, to change people’s behaviour.”

Carrim said the committee had considered four main issues in relation to the tax: “The impact on job losses, the impact on small African emerging farmers, what the Department of Health is doing to create awareness about the dangers of sugary drinks and how the levy can be used to address obesity.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s Alf Lees said the DA caucus had yet to decide whether to support the tax.

“We are confident that members of parliament will put the health of the millions of people who elected them before the narrow interests of the beverage and sugar industries and pass the bill as it stands,” said Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) co-ordinator Tracey Malawana.

Heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other obesity-related diseases account for about 55% of deaths in South Africa. Diabetes alone claimed more than 25 000 lives in 2015, according to Statistics SA. Some 10 000 new cases are diagnosed at public health facilities each month.

South Africans are among the top 10 consumers of soft drinks in the world and research has shown that drinking just one sugary fizzy drink a day increases the chances of being overweight by 27% for adults and 55% for children, according to HEALA. – Health-e News.


Calendar of events: Calendar_#WoW!NoSugar.
Pledge to Sign: No Sugar Pledge
Introduction as below: Welcome to the #WoW!NoSugar Challenge

WoW! No-Sugar November Challenge

Welcome to the WoW! No-Sugar November Challenge! We are so thrilled that you have decided to join us in empowering yourself in body, mind and spirit. For the month of November, we challenge you to give up on added sugar!

What does that mean?
Quit added sugar for 30 days! One day at a time.
What to give up? Select at least one added sugar food item (that you have often) to quit during November. Select from: sweets/candy/; cakes/biscuits; sweet desserts/puddings; chocolates; sugar in tea/coffee; sweeteners; soft /fizzy/sugary drinks (including fruit juice, sports drinks, diet drinks; flavoured water); sweetened yoghurt; alcoholic drinks (including beer, cocktails, cider).
Move more! Aim for at least 30min of physical activity most days of the week.
Rethink your drink! Drink water! Flavour water by adding natural ingredients such as a slice of orange, lemon, apple or cucumber.
Read food labels! Make sure you read all food labels before just grabbing something from the shelves- even something you think is sugar-free could have hidden sugars.
Mindful eating! Get mindful of all of your food choices, start to explore alternative healthy options, eat and enjoy your food with others.

What are the benefits of reducing my sugar intake?
Some of the benefits that you might experience:
 Lose weight – this, in turn, reduces your risk of developing a chronic disease such as diabetes.
 Improve concentration.
 Clearer skin
 Reset your system.
 Recalibrate those taste buds.
 Sleep better.
 Improve health.
 Increase energy levels.
 Look and feel great in your summer clothing.
 Save money.

List 3 things that you want to achieve through this No-Sugar Challenge:
1. __________________________________________________________
2. __________________________________________________________
3. __________________________________________________________

Actions for saying No-Sugar!
Clear out! Remove all sugary foods and treats from your cupboards.
Be prepared! Have healthy snacks available like raw nuts, fruit, unsalted popcorn….
Beat the boredom! Sometimes we simply eat to give yourself something to do!
Manage your stress! Take healthy actions such as going for a walk, rather than reaching for sweets/chocolates.
Social support! Surround ourselves with people like-minded people who will support you.
Learning through challenges! We know there is no such thing as failure. There is only learning and retrying for success!
Share experiences! Share your challenges, ideas, actions and progress on the WoW! Facebook group: WoW! WesternCape on Wellness

For more information about the WoW! No-Sugar November Challenge and the WoW! healthy lifestyles initiative:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 021483 6651

Thank you for helping as to Co-Create a Culture of Wellness!