WHO sweet on SA’s sugar tax

South Africa has been lauded by the World Health Organization for tackling diabetes and obesity.

In fact‚ the organisation said the country has set a good example for other countries with its efforts to implement a tax to help curb high sugar intake.

The WHO said that it “strongly supports” the sugar tax on beverages.

On Thursday Brand South Africa flagged the world body’s recognition on its website.

During his budget speech last month‚ finance minister Pravin Gordhan said the tax would come into effect once legislation is finalised.

“By implementing a tax on sugary drinks to increase the prices of these beverages‚ South Africa will be taking a proactive step to reduce intake of sugars‚ which contribute to unhealthy weight gain and other diet-related NCDs [noncommunicable diseases]‚ including diabetes‚” said Dr Rufaro Chatora‚ the WHO’s representative to South Africa.

“South Africa’s stance on sugary drinks‚ and other products that impact on health‚ such as tobacco and alcohol‚ sets an example for other countries to follow. By taking such actions‚ South Africa is demonstrating that with political commitment and investment in health promotion that it is possible to beat back the scourge of NCDs‚ including diabetes and obesity.”

About 16-million people die annually of non-communicable diseases and WHO member states have pledged to stop the rise of obesity and diabetes.

But the Beverage Association of South Africa does not agree with the tax.

In a statement issued after Gordhan’s speech‚ the association announced that it is “extremely disappointed” in the announcement of the “discriminatory tax”.

“There is mounting data showing that taxing one small part of the consumer’s daily diet — sugar-sweetened beverages represent less than 10% of daily caloric intake — will not result in any significant decrease in overall sugar consumption‚” the association’s statement read.

“The recent ITAM report on the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Mexico‚ for example‚ revealed a minimal reduction of actual calories consumed. When accounting for the real-world substitution on other foods containing sugar‚ experts estimate a maximum reduction of 6 calories realised in the daily diet.”

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