Junk food tax proposed for South Africa

 ·5 Nov 2021

The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) has proposed the expansion of South Africa’s health promotion levy to include ultra-processed foods.

Commonly known as the ‘sugar tax’, the health promotion levy currently adds about 11% to the cost of sugary beverages to help curb the country’s sugar consumption, which health experts say is fuelling a rise in non-communicable diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

In its presentation made to the National Treasury ahead of the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on 11 November, HEALA noted that the Department of Health is currently in the process of defining ‘healthy food’ via front of package food warning label regulations. This could be expanded to help define product expansion for a new levy on ultra-processed foods, it said.

HEALA said that increased revenue can support greater investment into social grant programmes, including:

  • An increase to the Child Support Grant to at minimum meet the food poverty line (R624) and extend it to pregnant mothers;
  • Extend the Covid-19 support grant;
  • Enact a Basic Income Grant (BIG).

The group has also called on Treasury to double the current health promotion levy to 20%, which it says will bring in an additional R2 billion in extra revenue.

This additional revenue could be to support nutrition-sensitive social support – such as reduced tax, vouchers and subsidies for healthier foods – and increases to social grants.

Other proposals made by the group include:

  • Subsidising/reducing tax on nutritious foods;
  • Requiring/enabling healthy food environments in all public institutions in places such as schools and hospitals;
  • Ensuring implementation of the National School Nutrition Programme at all schools;
  • Strengthening and enforcing regulations on marketing products to children and mothers.

“Government has a responsibility to act to build a healthier food environment for our most vulnerable,” it said.  “A healthy, balanced diet is fundamental for health and development, & access to sufficient nutritious food is essential for our economic development.”

Read: The tiny tax base that’s expected to help fund South Africa’s new basic income grant

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