BEVSA sceptical sugar tax will address underlying issue of obesity in SA

BEVSA is responding to a Policy Paper, published by Treasury, which proposes a 20% levy on sugary drinks.

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JOHANNESBURG - The Beverage Association of South Africa (BEVSA) says a sugar tax is not going to address the underlying issue of obesity in the country.

BEVSA's members include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Red Bull.

The association is responding to a Policy Paper published by National Treasury proposing a 20 percent levy on sugary drinks.

Proponents such as think tank Priceless SA, say the country's public health care system will not be able to cope with the number of obese people if people don't reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.

Wits Professor Karen Hofman says studies show that a 20 percent sugar tax is key to containing health care costs.

"It is going to prevent a significant percent of obesity over the next 10 years."

She adds the cost of these conditions to the GDP in the past decade was about R1.8 billion, just from diabetes, stroke and heart disease - all of which have significant association with obesity."

She says, "Liquid sugar is particularly toxic and causes an association with diabetes because it exhausts the organs of the body that have to control sugar."

But industry players are not convinced taxation will address obesity.

BEVSA's Executive Director Mapule Ncanywa says, "The South African calorie consumption for beverages is about three percent."

Ncanywa has questioned how limiting beverage intake is going to reduce obesity.

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa says National Treasury has also confirmed plans to include a sugar tax on food.

The council warns this poses an unforeseen risk to the industry and the economy.

It says the affected industries are committed to dealing with the problem of obesity, and intend doing so by encouraging and marketing better food choices, while restricting advertising aimed at children of foods and drinks that don't meet nutritional criteria.