An adequate consumption of Fruits and Vegetables (F&V) is an important component of a healthy diet to prevent major non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, gastrointestinal cancer and obesity. The recently published European nutrition and health report 2009 indicates that a minimum daily intake of 400g of F&V (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers), which is the minimum amount recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), has not been achieved in many European Union countries. Data from dietary surveys carried out in the adult population suggest that Austria, Germany, Italy and Poland only have been able to meet this recommendation.

The FAO food balance sheets present a comprehensive picture of the pattern of a country’s food supply during a specified reference period and show the quantities and types of food available in a country. Although an increase has been observed in the mean supply of F&V over the past years, in almost two thirds of the 53 Member States in the WHO European Region their mean supply is far below the recommended supply of 600g per capita per day. The second action area of the WHO European Action Plan for Food and Nutrition Policy 2007-2012 is entitled ensuring a safe, healthy and sustainable food supply. Member States are encouraged to take integrated action in this area in order to improve the availability and affordability of F&V by revising, for instance, their agricultural policies; providing technical advice and market incentives for local horticulture (including urban horticulture) and reducing trade barriers to imports.

A preliminary analysis of currently available national policy documents, carried out by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, suggest that nine documents only include an objective to increase the production and growing of F&V. In contrast, campaigns targeting the availability of F&V in local settings such as schools or work places have been widely implemented as well as initiatives aiming to improve the individual consumption. These campaigns and initiatives are promising in reducing the gap between recommendations and real consumption of F&V in Europe, but many countries still need to take action in this regard.

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