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Sugar tax oped2

CGCSA: Sugar tax poses ‘real and unforeseen risks’

The Treasury published last week a policy paper and proposals on the taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages for public comment. It also confirmed plans to include sugar-sweetened foods for taxation.

The taxes on these beverages and foods will not be an effective way of tackling obesity. It has already been demonstrated that similar taxes imposed in other markets across the world have not significantly reduced the consumption of these products.

There is also the question of whether such a tax will be an efficient way of raising revenue compared with tax on alcohol and cigarettes.

The council believes that South African-specific data, generated through a dietary intake study, is an indispensable first step towards a science-based strategy that will drive targeted interventions towards achieving the national goal of reducing obesity by 2020.

Simply implementing a tax in the face of the well-established cooperation between the industry and the Department of Health will not achieve this.

In the engagements between the council, the department, the Beverages Association of SA and other food industry associations on the troubling rise of non-communicable diseases and obesity, the food and non-alcoholic beverage industry has agreed to support the department’s efforts to combat the rise of obesity by encouraging consumers to make better food and non-alcoholic beverage choices.

The industry will achieve this by making better-for-you food and beverage options available to consumers and by improving the marketing of these options, while restricting the advertising to children of food and beverages that do not meet specific nutrition criteria.

Subsequent to these discussions, the food and non-alcoholic beverage industry has established the healthy food options forum, with a mandate to work with the department in developing and driving healthy food option initiatives aimed specifically at promoting healthy eating habits to manage obesity.

The forum, which comprises food and non-alcoholic beverage companies including retailers and manufacturers, as well as quick-service restaurants, is developing a comprehensive healthy food options action plan with measurable targets over the period 2016-2020.

The plan includes an enforceable code on marketing to children. It restricts advertising to children 12 years and younger of food and non-alcoholic beverages that do not meet specified nutrition criteria, and measurable and specific targets set by the sector associations of the industry.

The food and non-alcoholic beverage industry is committed to national objectives set to deal with the problem of obesity in SA.

The industry has demonstrated its commitment and taken tangible steps that it believes over time will contribute successfully to tackling obesity through a collaborative approach that involves the government, schools, the public and private health systems, and the media.

The CGCSA believes the current and planned co-ordinated initiatives led by the industry in consultation with the department will promote healthy eating as part of a multifaceted approach to tackling the rise of obesity. The council is willing and open to engaging with the Treasury on the proposed sugar tax in the same spirit that we engage with the Department of Health.

We would like to share with the Treasury our concerns about the need for informed decision-making in the interests of a shared commitment to promoting healthy living, while ensuring the industry’s contribution to continued investment and job creation.

Authored by Francina Makhoane, head of the food-safety initiative of the Consumer Goods Council of SA.

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