"Big Food", the consumer food environment, health and the policy response in South Africa

02 Oct 2012

Summary Points: * In South Africa, as in other jurisdictions, ‘‘Big Food’’ (large commercial entities that dominate the food and beverage environment) is becoming more widespread and is implicated in unhealthy eating. * ‘‘Small food’’ remains significant in the food environment in South Africa, and it is both linked with, and threatened by, Big Food. * Big Food in South Africa involves South African companies, some of which have invested in other (mainly, but not only, African) nations, as well as companies headquartered in North America and Europe. * These companies have developed strategies to increase the availability, affordability, and acceptability of their foods in South Africa; they have also developed a range of ‘‘health and wellness’’ initiatives. Whether these initiatives have had a net positive or net negative impact is not clear. The South African government should act urgently to mitigate the adverse health effects in the food environment in South Africa through education about the health risks of unhealthy diets, regulation of Big Food, and support for healthy foods.