Date Published: 14 February 2007

safefood urges consumers to increase intake of fruit and vegetables

Health News from the Republic of Ireland (Eire).

New report highlights low intake of fruit and vegetables on the island of Ireland

On the 12 February 2007 safefood issued the findings of its review of the fruit and vegetable¹ food chain across the island of Ireland. The review found that despite consumers being well informed of the health benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, consumption of fruit and vegetables among consumers remains low.

Only 21% of adult men and 19% of women on the island of Ireland are meeting the current WHO target, with young children eating even less. To maximise the benefits of eating fruit and vegetables, safefood is encouraging people to eat a mixture of fruit and vegetables - whatever form they come in, whether fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. In addition, the report also showed that based on the balance of current scientific evidence, organic fruit and vegetables are no safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced varieties.

The report also highlighted lack of clarity among consumers in relation to what constitutes a portion. The importance of introducing fruit and vegetables into children’s diets is widely recognised and repeated exposure to a variety of tastes, textures and flavours in childhood leads to greater consumption and enjoyment of foods later in life, including fruits and vegetables.

Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood, commented

Fruit and vegetables are highly nutritious and an essential part of the diet. They can help maintain a healthy weight and are associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and type II diabetes. It is worrying that the consumption of fruit and vegetables on the island of Ireland is low, especially when compared to our European cousins and simple steps can be taken to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed like choosing an apple or banana as a quick, convenient snack or including frozen vegetables with your dinner.

As part of the review process, research was conducted, which highlighted a number of barriers to the buying and consumption of fruit and vegetables, and concerns over quality and shelf life.

There was little concern regarding the potential health risks from chemical and microbiological contamination of fruit and vegetables. In addition to enforcing EU legislation, the respective food safety agencies and agricultural departments have produced guidelines for growers and producers to minimise the risk of food borne illness resulting from the consumption of fruit and vegetables.

Dr Cliodhna Foley Nolan, Director of Human Health and Nutrition, safefood commented

Fruit and vegetables are a rich source of many vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals? and the health benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables cannot be overemphasized. Whether it’s enjoying a bunch of grapes, snacking on some carrot sticks or having a hearty vegetable soup or delicious fruit smoothie, there are many practical ways of keeping fruit and vegetables on our plates, especially children’s. Tinned and frozen varieties are also convenient options. When cooking fruit and vegetables, try microwaving or steaming instead of boiling or frying and avoid the addition of salt, sugar, cream or sauces - honey drizzled on fruit or garlic with mushrooms are two simple alternatives for added flavour."

She continued,

When eating raw, uncooked fruit or vegetables, they should always be washed before eating and cleaned carefully before cooking. Prepared fruit and vegetables such as bags of salad leaves should be kept in the fridge, away from raw meat and poultry to avoid cross-contamination. In addition, utensils and cutting boards used to prepare meals should be washed thoroughly between uses. Although the risks associated with eating fruit and vegetables are low, consumers should follow these sensible steps when preparing and storing fresh produce.

Note:
¹ For the purpose of this review, potatoes are excluded as they are classed as ‘Breads, Cereals and Potatoes’ food group due to their high starch content and are not consumed raw.

 

Source: Safefood (Ireland).

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