EPHA has co-signed several letters calling European policy-makers to step up efforts towards an enhanced role of fruit and vegetables in the prevention of diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The initiative came out as a follow-up to meetings of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, the High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity, and the WHO European Region conference on Nutrition and Non-communicable Diseases in the context of Health2020 at the end of June, beginning of July 2013.
According to the WHO Europe data low intake of fruit and vegetables is one of the main preventable/modifiable diet-related risk factors of developing NCDs.
Such objective evidence stresses the need to focus efforts on promoting increased and sustainable production, purchase and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among all population groups. Led by the European Commission, the High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity (HLG) is currently to reaffirm its objectives and strategic direction and, at the suggestion of the Irish Presidency, to develop an EU-wide Action Plan on childhood obesity. These two occasions, as well as the mandate for a new food and nutrition plan from the WHO Regional Office for Europe provide excellent and timely opportunities to include concrete actions on this major issue.
The signatory associations are familiar of, and very supportive towards, the EU School Fruit Scheme as a pertinent and successful initiative in the right direction. However, they would like to highlight the need to do more if Europe is to effectively promote affordable and accessible healthy diets high in fresh fruit and vegetables’ intake for better and more equal health outcomes of European consumers and population across the social spectrum.
While continued action to decrease the intake of fat, salt and sugar is important, more coherent and concerted efforts are necessary to promote and support the consumption of whole or minimally processed foods such as fruit and vegetables, which constitute a healthy and sustainable diets.
To this end therefore, European policy-makers are urged to:
– Focus efforts are needed to encourage affordability and accessibility of production, purchase and consumption of nutrient-dense foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, in future policy developments in line with ‘whole-of-government’ and ‘whole-of-society’ approaches.
– Promote and support development and maintenance of free distribution schemes of fresh fruit and vegetables to schoolchildren, and seek expansion of such provision on other population groups vulnerable to poor diet-related-NCDs epidemic (such as the most deprived) in future policy developments.
– Give a clear definition of a “healthy diet” as referred to in the Vienna Declaration so that concrete measurable targets and actions can be set and taken upon.