What’s in my food campaign

The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) launched a campaign, #whatsinmyfood, that asserts the right of every South African to know what is in the processed food they are eating. HEALA have called on government to help them do this.

About the campaign

The overall message of the #whatsinmyfood campaign is that South Africans have the right to know what’s in their food. The campaign aims to raise awareness and encourage dialogue among ordinary South Africans about the harmful contents of unhealthy food sold by the food and beverage industry.

There is a direct link between obesity and related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and the excessive consumption of foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat.

The objective of the campaign is to get people to realise that a lot of the everyday processed food they are eating is unhealthy, and that there is a correlation between eating unhealthy food and poor health. Everyone needs to scrutinise the contents of their food, and particularly to cut down on foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat.

Obesity stats

According to a 2016 Lancet study, South Africa is the most obese nation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 40% of women and 11% of men are obese and over two-thirds (69,3%) of women and 39% of men are overweight1.

Obesity is one of the top five risk factors for early death and disability in the country2. In addition, 1,6 million South African children are considered obese and the condition is growing at a much faster amongst kids than adults1.

The study further reveals that obesity is linked to the development of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes. These are among the top 10 causes of death in South Africa, accounting for 43% of deaths1.

Fighting obesity

The availability of unhealthy food combined with aggressive marketing, advertising and incomprehensible food labels, disempowers the consumer from making healthy food choices.

It is the responsibility of the food and beverage industry to clearly disclose the contents of the food they produce, market and supply to the public.

HEALA requires government to create policies and laws to ensure that the food and beverage industry provide South Africans with the clear and accurate information they need to make better food choices for themselves and their families.


Linked to the campaign is a microsite (www.whatsinmyfood.org.za) that features simplified nutrition information on popular packaged foods and beverages. There is also a pledge for visitors urging government to put in place policies that call for clear food labels and hold industry accountable for the harmful ingredients in the food they supply.

People can support and benefit from the campaign by engaging in social media conversations using the #whatsinmyfood, visiting the microsite and taking the pledge at www.whatsinmyfood.org.za.


  1. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19·2 million participants. The Lancet. 2016; 387(10026): 1377-96)
  2. Pillay-van Wyk V, Msemburi W, Laubscher R, Dorrington RE, Groenewald P, Glass T, et al. Mortality trends and differentials in South Africa from 1997 to 2012: second National Burden of Disease.