A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) proposed by National Treasury may be a cost-effective way for government to raise additional revenues, but a sugar lobby has argued that it will have little or no impact on tackling obesity in South Africa.
The Beverage Association of South Africa has said claims by Johannesburg-based endocrinologist Dr Sundeep Ruder that there could be 250 000 fewer obese South Africans in three to five years if the tax is introduced was flawed.
“There are many contributing factors to obesity – a lifestyle disease that is the result of consuming too many kilojoules and exercising too little.
“SSBs contribute just 3% of the total kilojoules consumed by the average South African on a daily basis,” the organisation said in a statement. “So even if the tax did reduce consumption of sugary drinks – and there is little global evidence to show this – it would have a negligible impact on the total kilojoule intake of consumers.”
It added that “a local academic” had recently asserted that taxing sugar-sweetened beverages without providing incentives for consumer education and advice on a balanced approach to diet and lifestyle was “just a drop in the caloric ocean”.
The association argues a tax on SSBs assumes that people will consume fewer sugary drinks if they become more expensive – but experience shows otherwise.