Facts About Sugar In South Africa


The South African government has its eye on sweet-toothed citizens.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan announced a proposed tax on sugar-sweetened drinks in his February 2016 budget speech. The comment period closed last week and the tax is planned to be in effect from 1 April 2017.

The tax has been described as “murderous” by the chairman of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, Phil Gutsche.

The Beverages Association of South Africa, a membership-based industry body representing the interests of non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers, claims that the tax is unnecessary and will have far reaching implications.

We fact-checked two of their claims contained in the comment document they submitted to Treasury.

What is the sugar tax?

Sugar-sweetened drinks include soft drinks, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, vitamin water drinks, sweetened iced teas and lemonades. These drinks have sugar added to them during processing and preparation.

Government has proposed that these drinks be taxed at a rate of 2.29 cents per gram of sugar. This means that drinks with large amounts of added sugar will be more taxed more.

A 330 ml can of Fanta Grape contains nearly 10.5 teaspoons of sugar and would be taxed an additional R1. A can of Coca-Cola (just more than 8 teaspoons of sugar) would be taxed R0.80.

Drinks which contain natural sugars – like unsweetened milk and 100% fruit juice – would not be taxed. Sugar-sweetened drinks of which the sugar content is not disclosed on the packaging would be taxed at a fixed sugar level of 50 grams per 330 ml.

The World Health Organisation recommends that “free sugar” should make up less than 10%(about 12 teaspoons per day) of adults and children’s total energy intake. This includes sugar added to food and drinks and sugar naturally present  in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

Reducing your intake to below 5% would provide additional health benefits, the organisation says.

  • Claim: “[Sugar-sweetened drinks] account for just 3% of daily calorie intake in South Africa.”
  • Verdict: misleading

“A combination of sources” were used to calculate the figure, according to consultant Karishma Jivan of FTI Consulting, the media consultant for the Beverages Association.

“We used the analysis conducted by Manyema Hofman et al… which indicates that average consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is 184 ml per day,” Jivan told Africa Check. She said this figure was found to be consistent with internal and industry sugar-sweetened drinks sales figures, which are not in the public domain.

The study Jivan referred to, published in 2014, used data from the 2012 South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that was conducted by South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council.

One litre of sugar-sweetened drinks was assumed to contain 430 calories. A daily intake of 184 ml would account for approximately 79 calories. This works out to 3.2% of an adult South African man’s recommended diet and 3.9% of an adult South African woman’s recommended diet.


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