An article recently appeared in The Cape Times newspaper covering The Noakes Foundation’s latest Sugar Barometer concept – you can find the article here.
The Foundation wanted to take the opportunity to respond to the article, and shed some more light on our idea that is aimed at facing a very serious problem our country faces: the ever-increasing obesity and diabetes rates.
The Foundation share’s Rina Swart’s concerns about whether just sugar taxation will curb obesity, this is what lead us to develop the Sugar Barometer ™ concept – we realized that it is not the cost of sugar that’s the problem, the real issue lies in nutritional education and awareness about the negative impact of sugar on the body. The majority of South African’s are unaware of the hidden sugar contents in food and are still unsure of how to read food labels. We aimed to create a simple and easy way to easily identify sugar levels without having to scrutinize the label.
The Foundation specifically targeted sugar and did not include the other nutrients in the barometer because research and science has shown us that sugar is the nutrient that has the most severe negative impact on health and consumption needs to be carefully regulated.
The Noakes Foundation is in the process of putting together a proposal for the Sugar Barometer concept and will approach the Department of Health in due course. We agree that should Government wish to curb the growing burden of health-related risks, more initiatives are needed to operate in conjunction with the sugar tax – the Foundation believes that their Eat Better South Africa! community intervention model, where under-resourced communities are educated about the dangers of excessive sugar and carbohydrate consumption, is one such initiative that can reduce the growing obesity and type two diabetes epidemics.
Prof Tim Noakes, Chairman of The Noakes Foundation: “One goal of the barometer is to encourage the public to understand that dietary sugar and carbohydrates are driving the obesity epidemic. So to reverse the obesity epidemic everyone needs to understand 3 rules: Eat fat. No sugar. Limit carbohydrates (depending on one’s level of insulin resistance). The barometer addresses two of those issues. It helps one decide how much carbohydrate is present in a particular foodstuff. And if the product contains sugar, it’s a no-no.”
Jayne Bullen, Manager of the Foundation, says that ‘The complexity of food labels is the issue we are trying to tackle. According to our research, complex food labelling concepts are cause of the confusion in SA. Studies abroad with traffic light systems have shown that the complexity puts people off and can even add to the confusion. Whilst we have plans to include fat content into the barometer in phase two of this, we need to keep it simple tackling the biggest thing first. Namely: sugar in foods and a clear way to educate, illustrate and limit them. We have spent a long time finding the simplest visual way to demonstrate to anyone in our unique and diverse South African market how to cut the sugar and carbs with our Eat Better South Africa interventions. As Eat Better South Africa and The Noakes Foundation, we are tackling nearly all the touch points around NCDs and their treatment, interventions, education and labelling being priorities according to the guidelines set out in the Department of Health’s strategic plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases 2013-17. We know what needs to be done to dramatically change and improve the outlook for South Africa’s future.”
The Sugar Barometer is one strategy to get us closer to creating awareness about hidden sugars and the dangers of overconsumption.