Dr Susan Jebb – On our way to 5 A Day

Susan JebbThanks to years of solid work the public awareness of the health benefits of fruit and vegetables is impressively high, but national surveys tell us that consumption remains stubbornly low.

Only 1 in 3 people achieve the 5-A-Day goal and some still manage only one portion a day or less.  It’s clear we need to move beyond basic educational messages and onto tangible action to support and enable people to boost their intake of fruits and vegetables.

Experience shows this is easier said than done.  Retailers in particular have already done a lot and offered a variety of incentives to consumers to put extra fruit and vegetables in their baskets – from colourful displays at the front of the store to seasonal recipes and price promotions.  But to realise the full public health benefits it’s clear we need to do more and this is why we’ve put so much effort into developing this new Responsibility Deal pledge.

People who eat more fruit and vegetables are less likely to suffer from heart disease and some cancers.  Fruit and vegetables are at the heart of a healthy diet – they add fibre and a range of micronutrients to improve nutritional quality.  And with relatively few calories in every bite, it’s hard to over eat on broccoli – so adding more veg adds bulk on the plate and reduces the risk of overeating and weight gain, helping in the fight against obesity.

I am delighted that we now have 17 major companies coming forward to make commitments to do even more “to create a positive environment that supports and enables people to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables”.

The aspiration is that working together we can reshape the food environment so that consumers have a wider range of fruit and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned and dried to choose from.  We will see more vegetables as an integral part of pre-prepared product ranges and a raft of new incentives to taste, try at home and continue to purchase as a regular part of their weekly shop or when eating out. In essence it’s about changing social norms around fruit and vegetables – making them centre-stage not a sideshow.

As with other Responsibility Deal pledges, the promise of broad, collective action, across the industry from retailers, manufacturers and caterers offers a real opportunity to make a step change.  Some manufacturers have committed to adding more veg to current products (the ‘health by stealth’ approach) or introduce new ranges with more vegetables as an integral part of the product such as Mars’ Dolmio pasta sauces and Tesco’s Eat, Live, Enjoy range.

Retailers have committed to a raft of new initiatives to make fresh produce more available and more desirable than ever before.  ALDI will increase the amount of store space dedicated to fresh produce and LIDL will rebrand its entire fruit and vegetable range making it more appealing, particularly for children – with fun characters and jokes on kids packs.

Morrisons will revamp the produce department in more stores by introducing new layouts, extended choice and exciting innovations – based on their experience they expect this could boost sales of fruit and veg by an average of 14 per cent, helping many more customers on their way to 5-a-day.  And Waitrose is training hundreds of staff to become fruit and vegetable specialists – to boost its fresh produce offering in store and give advice to customers.

Some of the major contract caterers, Brakes, CH & Co and 3663 will be working to boost the opportunities to make fruit and vegetables an integral part of meals away from home.  But it’s not just fresh produce, frozen and canned options are also playing a role with convenient, low cost options such as the pledges from the British Frozen Food Federation, Iceland and General Mills’ Green Giant.

Over the summer we held an interesting workshop with experts in behaviour change to try to identify new approaches and I’m pleased to see Subway’s creative Famous Fans campaign promoting extra salad items as part of their Low Fat Sub range.  And the Co-operative Food are targeting customers who are not buying fruit and vegetables with money-off coupons in a bid to change customer behaviour.  In the New Year I hope to see other businesses translating some of the behavioural insights that are emerging from consumer research to develop innovative strategies to influence people’s shopping habits.

As with all our pledges, this announcement is just the start of what needs to be a sustained campaign.  Companies signing up today are among some of the most progressive, forward looking businesses who want to support their customers to put their healthy eating resolutions into action.  We need many more companies to join our efforts and we will be continuing to press for further action.  I’m convinced there are far more opportunities to reformulate composite dishes, to consider placement opportunities in store and to make vegetables an integral part of the standard price of a meal out.  This is a real win-win opportunity – good for business and good for customers.

This Responsibility Deal pledge to boost fruit and vegetable consumption sits alongside work by the Change4Life programme to motivate and enthuse consumers to choose a healthier diet.  It’s vital that we focus particular attention on encouraging those who currently consume very little to boost their intake.  Research shows that fruit and veg intake ‘tracks’ through childhood and adolescence, so healthy school lunches with at least two portions of fruit or vegetables are really important to give children the opportunity to experience fruit and vegetables from an early age, and to see other children and adults around them enjoying these foods.

I’m particularly pleased to announce these fruit and vegetable commitments, because the Food Network pledges now cover each of the key elements to help us achieve dietary recommendations – less salt, fewer calories (primarily from less fat and sugar) and more fruit and vegetables to boost fibre and micronutrients.  Taken together they are a big step towards transforming the diet of the nation.

Next year we will be reinforcing this work with a pledge specifically focused on reducing saturated fat and discussions to frame a new pledge relating to the promotion of food, designed to tip the balance of promotions in favour of healthier options.

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2 Responses to Dr Susan Jebb – On our way to 5 A Day

  1. PhilT says:

    I would prefer to see a clear separation between fruit and vegetables. While you won’t overdose on calories eating broccoli you will overdose on calories and fructose if you were to drink a lot of (say) orange juice on the basis that is was “healthy”.

    Fruit and vegetables have very different nutrient profiles and should be handled differently. We don’t want obese Type II diabetics consuming lots of high sugar fruits / fruit juices, for example.

  2. nutrition@dh says:

    The Government recommendation for people to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day is based on epidemiological evidence indicating an association with consumption of more than 400g a day of fruit and vegetables with reduced risk of certain diet related chronic diseases. People who consume high levels of fruit and vegetables compared with low consumers tend to have: lower risk of coronary heart disease, lower risk of some cancers, better bowel health, and better micronutrient status. The evidence is not based on the consumption of fruits and vegetables separately.

    100% fruit juice does contain fruit sugars ‘fructose’, and although one 150ml glass can contribute to your 5 A DAY the Department of Health recommends drinking fruit juice at meal times to prevent dental decay.

    With regards calorie consumption, it is accurate to say that when we eat or drink more calories than we need, our bodies store the excess as body fat, if this continues over time we may become overweight, and may become obese. Being overweight or obese causes an increased risk of type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. In the UK most adults need to lose weight, and to do this they need to eat and drink fewer calories. Combining these changes with increased physical activity is the best way to achieve a healthier weight. As a guide, the average man needs around 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy body weight, and an average women, 2,000 calories a day. It is likely that it is not just one meal or drink, that needs to change, more that excess calories are being consumed throughout the whole day. One glass of fruit juice a day with your breakfast will contribute positively to your intake of fruit and vegetables, as it also contains vitamins, minerals and fibre. There are other sugary drinks (and foods) which are not so beneficial and could be replaced with lower sugar options that would impact positively on calorie reduction. The calorie content of many foods and drinks are provided on the packaging as part of the nutrition label. The calorie level can therefore be assessed to see how it fits in with the daily intake.

    To help people recognise which foods and drinks negatively impact on the Responsibility Deal has two pledges – ‘Out of Home Calorie Labelling’ to help people make healthier choices more often when eating out, and ‘Calorie Reduction’ which provides a mechanism for the food and drink industry to make and record its contribution to helping us reduce calorie intake.

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