Durban - South Africans are eating roughly 18kg more meat each year compared with 20 years ago, and they each drink almost 100 litres of fizzy or sugary drinks every year.
On average, South Africans each eat more than 58kg of meat each year, compared with around 40kg in 1994 – mostly chicken and processed pork products such as sausages and polony.
Consumption of soft drinks has also risen more than 68 percent, from about 55 litres per capita in 1999 to around 93 litres per person per year in 2012.
Coffee intake has risen by 54 percent. Tea consumption has also gone up 44 percent, and fat intake is rising steadily, mostly in urban communities.
These are some of the findings of a new study on domestic food consumption changes since 1994.
Conducted by Stellenbosch University researchers Lisa-Claire Ronquest-Ross, Nick Vink and Gunnar Sigge, the study warns that the increasing shift to a more Western-style diet is likely to result in higher levels of obesity and diet-related cardiovascular diseases.
While the intake of raw sugar in packets has dropped by about 7.5 percent, the overall consumption of processed sugar and other sweeteners has risen by almost 33 percent since 1999, mainly as a result of people drinking more sugary soft drinks, biscuits, doughnuts and other confectionery.
The study, published in the latest edition of the SA Journal of Science, also suggests that South Africans use twice as much tomato sauce than 12 years ago, about 50 percent more mayonnaise, 200 percent more salad dressing and 100 percent more spices.
Much of the data is based on statistics from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and Euromonitor International.
However, the authors acknowledge that some domestic studies suggest that consumer choices are based largely on price, with the conclusion that a healthy diet costs almost 70 percent more than the current typical diet of South Africans.
The authors suggest that changing consumption patterns were due to a variety of influences, including the rapid growth of the supermarket industry, higher income in urban areas and the ability of people to store meat and frozen foods in fridges because of electrification projects.
Of the 58kg of meat, more than half was chicken meat, with pork consumption growing steadily compared with beef, mutton and goat.
On average, people are now eating about 55% percent more eggs compared with 20 years ago, 48 percent more rice and 83 percent more oats.
However there was a sharp drop in the consumption of millet (-66 percent) and sorghum (-21 percent).
With fruit and vegetables, average banana consumption had risen by 144 percent, along with a 362 percent rise in grapefruit sales per capita, with orange sales falling by 33 percent and grape sales by about 70 percent.
Mirroring a global trend, the packaged food sector had grown by 57 percent between 2007 and 2012. This included a 50 percent growth in savoury and sweet biscuits, and a 22 percent increase in frozen processed foods such as frozen pizza, frozen ready meals, frozen chips and frozen chicken nuggets.
Commenting on the overall findings, the authors said: “The high prevalence of soft drink consumption is concerning in terms of its association with obesity and non-communicable diseases. A recent study conducted in the US concluded that added sugar intake from sugar-sweetened soft drinks is associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease mortality, and recommended that calorie intake from added sugar be limited.”
The researchers noted that the health concerns were further
exacerbated by the fact that a healthy diet was largely unaffordable for most South Africans, “especially when considering that price is the most important factor taken into consideration when selecting food items”.