Why a future-proof EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should have an impact indicator to promote access to fruit and vegetables.
One third of the EU population consumes less than one portion of fruit and vegetables per day. The same counts for 45% of 15-19 year-olds.
This while five portions per day is the recommended daily intake, roughly corresponding to the World Health Organization recommendation of at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day. Only 15% of EU citizens meet this recommended daily intake, which is even less for youth.
|Daily consumption of fruit and vegetables, EU, 2014|
|0 portions||1-4 portions||5 or more portions|
It has been calculated that if all EU citizens achieved a consumption of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day, almost 50.000 deaths from heart disease and stroke could be prevented. If the consumption increased to 600g per day, 135.000 deaths from these diseases could be prevented.
The European Commission committed the CAP to become “more apt at addressing critical health issues” and to make “nutritious valuable products such as fruit and vegetables easily available for EU citizens”. The European Parliament, in its own initiative report, also recognised the need for greater health focus by stressing “that a future-oriented CAP should be designed to better address critical health issues, such as those related to antimicrobial resistance (AMR), air quality and healthier nutrition”.
Major academic studies also highlight the need for agricultural policy to shift emphasis towards promoting healthy foods. Promoting fruit and vegetables intake is also a strategy for contributing to environmental objectives. There is overwhelming evidence that a strategy focused on dietary change towards more plant-rich diets in line with healthy eating guidelines can simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve nutrition.
While health is now firmly part of the CAP debate, the Commission’s proposal does not clearly elaborate on how its reinforced commitment to nutrition should be met beyond the already existing instruments, such as the School scheme, and does not include an indicator for nutrition.
The need for a ‘nutrition-sensitive’ agricultural policy is increasingly apparent and support for it is steadily growing. A future-oriented CAP is one that makes much better use of the co-benefits that may accompany the creation of markets for foods for healthy and sustainable diets.
Such measures can create positive, mutually reinforcing dynamics to the benefit of producers, through market signals, and consumers, through healthier food environments. When further linked to regional and local (e.g. urban) food strategies, this can provide particular benefit for regional employment and the flourishing of new business models.
The European Parliament’s AGRI committee, which will vote on the CAP at the beginning of April 2019, should vote for a new impact indicator to ensure national CAP strategic plans include focus on making “nutritiously valuable products such as fruit and vegetables” easily available for EU citizens to “increase fruit and vegetable intake with reference to national dietary guidelines” (Amendment 5089).
European Heart Network (2017) Transforming European food and drink policies for cardiovascular health
European Public Health Alliance (2019) CAP: 11 Ways to Deliver for Better Health
European Public Health Alliance (2016) A CAP for Healthy Living