Of all nutritional recommendations, one stands out. It is certain that practically all populations, communities, families and people, will improve their health and well-being, and be protected against obesity and serious chronic diseases, by consuming much more fresh and minimally processed vegetables and fruits. ‘Five a day’, while well above almost any country’s average, is a modest goal.

In this series of excellent articles, Enrique Jacoby explains why education and information programmes are an essential part of successful campaigns to increase consumption of vegetables and fruits. But by themselves such programmes cannot succeed. By analogy, no village schoolteacher could become president of her country if she had no backing from any political party, and practically no campaign funding. The amount of money spent by transnational and other giant industries to promote their fatty, sugary or salty ultra-processed products, may be a hundred or five hundred times that spent on health promotion programmes.

The way ahead is shown by a statement first agreed in 2008 at the inaugural meeting of the Public Health Foundation of India in Hyderabad, and continually confirmed since that time. Here it is: All significant improvements in public health involve the use of law. This is a rule to which there is no exception. Obesity, and diabetes and other serious chronic diseases, are now pandemic and out of control. Law is used to control or restrict driving, handguns, and smoking, and to protect infirm people, open spaces, and threatened species. Governments must now govern in the public interest, and use public money to improve public health. Part of this task is to make the production of vegetables and fruits more attractive, and to make them more available, accessible and affordable. This done, information and education programmes will work.

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