The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) has published a review aimed to estimate the consumption of fruit and vegetables by Europeans, the factors which determine this consumption, and the efficiency of initiatives to improve this consumption.
Despite various issues limiting the possibilities to assess fruit and vegetable intake on a European level, there are some consistent findings on consumption patterns in Europe:
- A majority of Europeans do not reach WHO recommendations on vegetables and fruit consumption (≥ 400 g per day).
- Consumption varies, with higher intakes in Southern compared to the Northern regions.
Fruit and vegetable consumption patterns are determined by a wide range of factors:
- Age, gender and socio-economic status – the influence of these seems to be mediated by other factors, e.g. food preferences, knowledge, skills and affordability.
- Personal factors, e.g. self-efficacy, self-esteem, perceived time constraints, personal values and perception of the healthiness of one’s own diet.
- Social environment – social support, social cues and meal patterns and atmosphere at meal time etc. influence food preferences and attitudes towards fruit and vegetables, thus determining our food choices and dietary behaviours.
Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is a priority for international organisations as well as national governments, which has resulted in many initiatives. There are certain elements that have been shown to improve the results of intervention programmes. Among these are:
- Multi-component strategies addressing both personal factors such as knowledge and skills, as well as the physical and social environment by e.g. increasing the availability of fruits and vegetables and addressing attitudes and practices not only in the defined target group, but also in their social networks.
- Support and involvement of decision makers and representatives of the target population in programme planning and running in order to create support and ownership and to develop strategies that are accepted by the target group.
- Programme duration of at least 12 months.