DURBAN - “We hope to introduce regulations about front-of-pack warning labels by late this year or early next year,” said Lynn Moeng, chief director of nutrition in the Department of Health.

“This will assist people to know what is in packaged food because most people don't know what they are eating,” said Moeng.

“The problem will then be how to deal with the food that isn't packaged. People are excited to buy those combos - the chicken, chips and a fizzy drink - without knowing what is in them.”

She was speaking at the launch of the #WhatsInMyFood campaign, organised by the Healthy Living Alliance (Heala), which aims to educate people about unhealthy ingredients lurking in processed food.

Poor diet is driving obesity in South Africa, the fattest nation in sub-Saharan Africa, with soaring rates of diabetes, 240 people having strokes every day and a high rate of heart attacks - mostly linked to poor diet and being overweight.

Heala executive director Sibongile Nkosi welcomed Moeng’s announcement, saying current ingredient labels on processed food were confusing.

“The food industry uses many different words for sugar and salt to conceal what is in their products, so clear warning labels will make it easy for people to identify unhealthy food,” said Nkosi.

“Think of the mother in a squatter camp preparing a lunch box for her child. She just goes to the nearest shop and buys polony. She doesn't have time to read what’s in it.”

- THE MERCURY