According to a new review, policy efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption across the developed world have resulted in modest gains and largely fallen short in impacting long-term dietary habit.
The review analyzed the results of interventions designed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in developed countries (1). The analysis showed that in an effort to increase consumption, countries including the US, Australia, Canada and several countries in the EU have conducted multi-million-dollar informational and educational campaigns over the past decade. However, the current average consumption of fruits and vegetables in these countries is still much lower than the World Health Organization recommended intake of 400 g per person per day. In the US, for example, only 6 to 8% of consumers meet their recommended daily target for vegetables and fruit, with the average American consuming only 1.8 cups per day. In Europe, average consumption stands at only 220 g per person per day for adults. And just 5.6% of Australian adults overall had an adequate daily consumption of fruit and vegetables.
A small success was observed in the US for children less than six years old and between 6 and 12 years old: increased intakes by 7% and 5%, respectively. In Denmark, vegetable and fruit consumption for the four to ten year-old group increased by 29% and 58% respectively. A 60 to 200% increase in consumption among primary school children in the US, UK and Italy was reached by a series of DVD adventures starring young heroes. The series run intensively for longer time-frames, encouraged the proactive involvement of all family members and was interactive rather than just promotional.
Success was higher for those campaigns where there was a high degree of collaboration between industry (producers), retail, government and quasi-government organizations, such as the Heart and Cancer Foundations/Societies, in rolling out and administering the interventions. Given that merely advising consumers to eat more fruit and vegetables does not appear to widely effect long-term behavioral change, the researchers suggested that more subtle and proactive strategies need to be introduced to facilitate a change that is sustainable. One targeted approach includes food service outlets, such as cafes and fast food chains, choosing to automatically include fruits and vegetables as a side dish in their meals, with the consumers having to request a substitute, if they so desire.