Twenty years ago, the government told us to eat ‘5 A Day’ – the only way to stop our national obesity crisis, and to save our kids. It all sounded simple: eat five portions of fruit and veg a day – get healthy, save the NHS and don’t die early.
The campaign cost more than £20 million, and yet… hardly anyone actually does it (only 30% of adults and 8% of children manage it regularly). So, was Five A Day a big con?
Now doctors, experts and ex-government officials are coming forward to reveal that the campaign was doomed from the start, because, despite all of the money spent… it was hijacked by food companies, who bamboozled consumers with technicalities. In short: no one really understood what was a fruit, and what was a vegetable. Producers took advantage by labelling their products as one of your 5 a day (or in some cases all 5) but then adding excess salt, fat and sugar resulting in something that was actually really quite bad for us. Dietician Victoria Taylor explains it’s a minefield out there, and that the only logo to trust is the government one.
The other reason so few people manage to eat five a day is because fruit and veg is so expensive. After Brexit, fruit stuck at the borders is rotting and the customers are having to absorb those costs. UK farmers are pulling up apple trees and letting raspberries go to seed because the supermarkets are keeping prices too low. At a strawberry farm in Kent the same berry can go to different supermarkets and be priced at different amounts (£1.89 a punnet in Aldi is £2.50 in Waitrose) – even though it was from the same plant. The results are less British produce and higher prices.
At Food Banks the demand for fresh produce has sky rocketed. Ex government food advisor, Henry Dimbleby explains that poverty and poor diet are interlinked and there is enough food out there to feed a nation – if only we could access it, and afford it.