The sugar tax dilemma A comparative analysis of the newly introduced sugar tax legislation in South Africa in relation to developing countries as well as the subsequent impact on the right to food

Nasholan Chetty


Over recent years, governments have taken an active interest in the private lives of their citizens and have sought to encourage citizens to eat healthily in order to increase productivity and the reduction of a disease burden on society. This has resulted in many governments introducing a surcharge tax on sugar or fats with the hope of disincentivising people from buying more and more junk food. The introduction of such taxes has generated heated debates in many countries with big companies like Coca-Cola and other fast food corporations opposing the introduction and implementation of this tax while most national health organisations and the World Health Organisation supporting it, arguing that the tax is an example of Pigovicin taxation, aimed to discourage unhealthy diets and offset the growing economic costs of obesity or any sugar-related illnesses. Around the 1930s in Denmark, the government introduced a soft drink tax which ultimately would be known as “sugar tax” in our current time. Denmark would eventually repeal this law; however, it was just the start of the sugar revolution. Countries such as France, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, and England all implemented or created laws on sugary drinks and other products between 2011 and 2016 which are either in effect or will come into effect in the near future. South Africa seeks to join such a worldwide cause in curbing diseases relating to sugar and its consumption on a daily basis. This has been met with outright criticism from large corporations to the average consumer. On one hand, a recent report entitled “The Economic Impact of Taxation of Sugar Sweetened Beverages in South Africa” commissioned by the Beverage Association of South Africa (BevSA) has stated that the soft drink industry will lose about RS.lbn (€2,145,980) and around 70,000 jobs in an already fragile employment atmosphere. On the other hand, a report by the World Health Organisation states that the tax will have the reciprocal effect of saving 500,000 lives over the next few decades which also translates into saving the crippled South African health system R1.7bn in the next decade. This chapter examines the role of the State in so far as regulating food

The sugar tax dilemma 91 consumption, the legality of the tax of food, and its implications. It will assess the impact of such taxes in other countries and whether the change in law can result in a change of lifestyle.

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