European five-year integrated project aims to improve fruit consumption

An ambitious, large-scale integrated five-year EU project called ISA Fruit is underway, aimed at reversing the public's declining fruit consumption and thus improving their health and well-being.

It is costing EUR13.8m (£12.8m) and involves more than 300 researchers and 40 research centres in 16 countries.

The project was described by Dr Luca Corelli Grappadelli at an East Malling Research Association top fruit storage members' day at East Malling Research in Kent on 24 March.

To achieve its goal, researchers are seeking ways of improving every aspect of the fruit chain "from farm to fork", he said.

Higher fruit consumption will come through improving things like fruit quality and the availability of a wider range of processed-fruit products, together with safer, more sustainable production methods and higher consumer awareness of the healthfulness and superior nutritional value of fruit in all its forms.

ISA Fruit is divided into seven parts or "pillars", explained Grappadelli, who is based at Bologna University in Italy. They include human health, fruit processing, pre-harvest and post-harvest techniques and genetics. Another pillar entails informing all those involved in the fruit chain, particularly consumers, about the project's findings and prompting action.

Dr Sharon Hall of Warwick HRI, an ISA Fruit coordinator, described the results of an EU consumer survey carried out by Dutch workers Karin Zimmermann and Isabelle van der Berg. It showed that "possible fruit-consumption barriers" are inconsistent taste and quality, and inconvenient packaging and product characteristics.

"It seems that most people like to eat fruit as long as it's already prepared," she explained. "Fresh fruit and fruit products do not substitute for each other (according to the survey's respondents). This is because processed products are thought to have lower nutritional value than fresh fruit and are often consumed in a different location - outside the home."

Those who eat mostly non-fruit foods should be persuaded to switch to healthier fruit products, added Hall. This would lead to an increase in fruit consumption which is ISA Fruit's objective.

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