A call to support the Draft Regulation No. R. 3337 Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs – Promoting access to safe and nutritious food

The rising rates of overweight, obesity and non-communicable diseases have become a global health concern. Given that unhealthy diets are a major risk factor, the food industry has been in the spotlight for several reasons, including for their use of various advertising and marketing strategies that encourage the consumption of ultra-processed foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats.

In particular, the food industry has designed various marketing techniques that make ultra-processed food appealing to children, contributing to high rates of childhood obesity that can result in lifelong health complications.  We have an opportunity to change this, on 21 April 2023 the Department of Health (DoH) published the Draft Regulations Relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs for public comments.    

There is evidence of the ineffectiveness of the traditional nutrition labels found at the back of packaged foods which is often complex and difficult for consumers to understand, especially those with  low literacy levels . As such, there have been calls for the South African Government to introduce Front-of-Pack Warning Labels (FOPL). UNICEF has defined FOPL as simplified labelling systems presented on the front of food packages with the aim of supporting consumers to make healthier food choices. A study carried out in South Africa has shown that FOPL  has the potential to level the playing field and improve nutritional literacy by providing nutritional information that is understandable, accessible and can help inform people to make better and healthier food choices.  

The Draft Regulations makes compulsory the inclusion of FOPL on packaged products that exceed the nutrient cut off values for salt, sugar and saturated fat. It also introduces restrictions on the marketing of foods carrying FOPL to children (under 18). Other important provisions include the prohibition of health and nutrition claims on food products carrying FOPL; banning several marketing techniques that appeal to children; restricting the use of brand names of foods carrying FOPL on clothing and donation items; advertisements of foods carrying FOPL must include the FOPL logos as well as warning messages about their health risks. This regulatory intervention is in line with the human rights obligation to promote access to safe and nutritious food and protecting South Africans from the marketing tactics of the food industry which threaten public health interests. These are important aspects of the right to health and food, guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

Giving effect to public participation and transparency during this process, the DoH has invited public comments on the Draft Regulations until 21 July 2023. We as Civil Society must show our support for this regulation, that will be an important addition to other health and nutrition-related policies aimed at better regulating South Africa's food system, which currently thrives at the cost of choosing profit over people’s health.

Please view and support the regulations here.



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