File photo: The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has approved R500-million to treat TB in the country, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said. Picture: Matthew Jordaan

The national Health Ministry is set to tackle the fast food industry and their advertising campaigns targeting children, with a possible ban on free toys with children’s meals.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has warned that fast food outlets could soon have to do away with their fatty children’s meals and replace these with healthier options.

Speaking at a summit on non-communicable diseases in Joburg this week, Motsoaledi said fast food companies would soon be forbidden from marketing their “unhealthy” products on TV during children’s programmes. Free toys might also be prohibited.

Motsoaledi said far too many children were at risk of contracting non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Apart from eating junk food, the country’s children were also not active.

“Too many children sit in front of a TV or play computer games for hours on end... We need to know that this is killing us – literally.”

non-communicable diseases caused over 60 percent of all deaths around the world. By 2030, it is estimated that non-communicable disease will contribute about 75 percent of global deaths.

Motsoaledi questioned whether the country produced enough fruit and vegetables for local consumption, and how these were made available to the poor and children. He said with the help of various departments such as Agriculture, Trade and Industry, and Finance “we can find creative solutions to turn this around. Can fruit and vegetables not be made cheaper and promoted to children in creative ways?” he asked.

A study done by Stellenbosch University on young adults in Gauteng, who consumed fast food, revealed that they ate junk food for “convenience and good taste”, but given a choice of healthier meals by fast food outlets such as vegetables and salads, they would opt for them. - Cape Argus