F&V consumption and differences across countries
The World Health Organization has long advocated for the increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains, and recommends that they form the central basis of a healthy diet. However, we know that many people across the world do not consume the recommended 400 grams (or 5 portions) of fruit and vegetables per day – far from it in fact. This edition of the Global Fruit and Vegetable Newsletter highlights some of the important factors underlying inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption, and draws attention to persistent inequalities within and between countries. Such inequalities in dietary intake are an important driver of inequalities in noncommunicable diseases and the epidemic of obesity.
In their paper, Lamb and Ball explore the relationship between socioeconomic position and fruit and vegetable consumption, using neighbourhood characteristics for their analysis. They find that increased fruit and vegetable consumption is generally associated with socially-advantaged neighbourhoods. This is important supplementary evidence to support previous findings that groups of lower socioeconomic status generally eat less fruit and vegetables. At the country level, Stefler finds large differences in fruit and vegetable intake between countries of east and west Europe, with reported intake much lower in Eastern Europe. This finding is consistent with data on fruit and vegetable availability, although – as the author notes – better and comparable data is needed. Combined, these papers suggest that more effort is needed to ensure fruit and vegetables are available and accessible to those who need it the most. Finally, Kremer-Sadlik and colleagues explore cultural factors influencing fruit and vegetable intake, finding that meal patterns and family dining cultures in some countries are more conducive to fruit and vegetable intake than those in others.
Collectively this issue of the Global Fruit and Vegetable Newsletter underlines the continuing need for targeted policies and interventions to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. Such action should focus on increasing the availability, affordability and acceptability of fruit and vegetables in all countries, for all population groups.
The WHO European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2020 emphasised the importance of a combination of actions to promote healthier diets, including changes to food environments (i.e. in schools, supermarkets), leveraging the agricultural sector, and targeted social marketing campaigns. This newsletter has reiterated the case for action; the challenge for future editions is to dig further into the questions of “what needs to be done” and “how”.