Warning labels planned for junk food
Cape Town – The Department of Health has set out plans to put warning labels on junk food.
The plan was announced by the chief director of nutrition at the Department of Health, Lynn Moeng, who said South Africans had become more used to convenience meals and junk food, and many people were not aware of what was in their food.
Moeng said the plan to have warning labels on junk food had been in the pipeline for some time now.
“The label is called a front-of-pack (FOP) label, mainly for packaged foods and drinks. The aim is to help consumers to make informed choices.”
Levels of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles were part of the reason for the warning labels.
“Currently it’s at the consultation stages, first with the intended beneficiaries (consumers) at various levels.
“This will be followed by engagements with industry. This will result in a regulated process. The FOP will not cover all the nutrients, only a few critical ones, for example, salt and sugar.”
She said the aim was to introduce the new regulations later this year or in early 2020.
“The current FOP does not address fast foods or freshly prepared foods and drinks, because they are not labelled. Increasing awareness on this is still critical.”
A study conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2016 found that more than 28% of South Africa’s adults were obese.
This is the highest obesity rate for any sub-Saharan African country on the continent, with Botswana placing second with a 18.9% adult obesity rate.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa said obesity was projected to increase.
“Obesity is caused by multiple factors, including a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of processed foods, high fat/sugar foods.
“Therefore more interventions would need to be implemented in order to reduce obesity in the country - improving access to healthier food options, educating the public about risks of obesity and how to prevent it, and having enabling environments that promote a healthy lifestyle.
“Obesity increases your risk of developing many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension/high blood pressure and heart disease.
"Children with high consumption of sugary drinks are also at a higher risk for dental cavities,” the foundation said.