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Is it still possible to increase the fruits and vegetables consumption of children?

It has been almost 15 years since the WHO highlighted the low levels of fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption in children. In 2003, only 17.6% of all European 11-year-olds attained the recommended 400 g/day. In 2004, a new strategy was adopted that diffused the slogan “5 (fruits and vegetables) per day” around the globe. Actions multiplied throughout the world, without any remarkable results. Researchers worldwide analysed the question by examining the reasons for this failure. Many experiments were conducted in various school populations, leading to several recommendations. The articles in this issue confi rm that above and beyond legislation, it is common sense and rules for healthy living that are more motivating for children. The evidence suggests that providing a diversifi ed range of products, presenting these products in an attractive manner, and providing improved access to F&V are all options to help increase consumption. The articles especially highlight the fundamental role of the family in terms of nutritional behaviour and communication, as well as providing an example to children.

The formulas are well known, but implementing them remains diffi cult due to rigid mentalities that can stifl e efforts to build better eating habits instead of being passive towards the problem. In addition, regulations that can impact to limit local deliveries of fresh products in public tenders, or discourage the use of fresh F&V through the imposition of drastic sanitary measures in community settings also cause issues. At a practical level private interests do not always leave way for the common or public good. A low cost approach to supplies diminishes the quality of F&V fl avour and thus, children reject them, in favour of more attractive “junk foods”. The health message so often related to F&V made them seem boring and associated with an effort to be made. Moreover, speeches on “unhealthy foods” are diffi cult for children to understand since they concern a faraway future.

In 2009, the European Commission launched its own “School Fruit Scheme” programme: 54 000 schools, 24 participant Member States and dedicated fi nancial support of 90 million for 2013/14. To ensure European-wide cohesion during the programme’s implementation, additional measures were proposed to foster success and evaluate the results. A 10-member committee of scientifi c experts was nominated after public tender in 2009 (OJ L 338).

This multidisciplinary and multicultural committee has an objective to reach a consensus and to suggest modifi cations to the rules for programme inclusion. It proposes rules and recommendations for a more effi cient overall scheme. It is hoped that scientifi c consensus will be taken into consideration in political debates, and by the EC in order to be transmitted to the Member States in the interest of all concerned.

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