Report highlights threat to nation's dietary health

Britain's dietary health faces a "perfect storm" of low vegetable consumption, rising prices of imported produce and the decline of home production due to labour costs and shortages, according to a report by the Food Foundation, funded by the Esmee Fairbairn and Nuffield Foundations.

Explaining its focus on vegetable intake, the report says: "We now buy about the same amount of veg as we did in the mid 1970s. Fruit purchasing has increased by over 50 per cent over the same period, indicating that specific attention is needed on veg purchasing and consumption."

A quarter of secondary school-age children currently eat fewer than one portion of vegetables a day, while 17 per cent of children's vegetable intake now comes from pizza and baked beans, it notes.

With 42 per cent of vegetables now imported, prices of these are vulnerable to the lower value of sterling, it warns, pointing to the decline in fresh produce consumption after the economic shock of 2008, particularly among lower-income households. For the largely unsubsidised UK horticulture sector, "political uncertainties surrounding migrant labour may threaten the survival of some horticulture businesses" in the wake of the Brexit vote, it says.

Food Foundation executive director Anna Taylor said: "The combination of higher food prices and pressure on UK horticulture production, in a situation where our children are already eating much too little veg, threatens to make our children's diets even worse than they already are.

"The Government now has an opportunity to rethink agricultural subsidies as we leave the EU and link them directly to supporting the public good. Scaling up investment in horticulture would be an excellent place to start. If we ate the amount of veg we should it would provide an opportunity for British growers to produce an additional 1.5 million tonnes of veg, creating employment opportunities and generating growth."

Professor Corinna Hawkes, director of the University of London's Centre for Food Policy, added: "Horticulture is something the UK can excel in. We can produce tasty fruit and vegetables that people want to eat, picked and packed by an engaged and well-treated workforce, while contributing to a healthy agricultural economy and natural environment. With these multiple wins, Brexit offers a golden opportunity for a race to the top to make Britain known for the quality of our produce."

The Food Foundation, together with Nourish Scotland and WWF-UK, has launched a "Peas Please" campaign to coincide with the report, aimed at tackling barriers to vegetable consumption by working with retailers, producers, manufacturers and fast food chains. A "major summit" on the topic is scheduled for June next year.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Can a labour crisis be averted in the UK berry industry?

Can a labour crisis be averted in the UK berry industry?

Failure to secure sufficient supply of seasonal labour would not only cripple Britain's thriving soft-fruit industry but would hit affordability and availability of a healthy everyday food, according to a report by agricultural consultancy Andersons Midlands for industry body British Summer Fruits (BSF).

How will a reduced European apple harvest impact on UK growers?

How will a reduced European apple harvest impact on UK growers?

British top fruit growers concerned about the impact of this season's late frost can take some comfort from the situation on the Continent, where according to analysts, damage to tree fruit is at least as bad.

Pest & Disease Factsheet - White mould

Pest & Disease Factsheet - White mould