PHE defends Change4Life campaign

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Children are only eating three portions of fruit and vegetables a day. As many as that, some parents might ask?
Children are only eating three portions of fruit and vegetables a day. As many as that, some parents might ask?

Related tags: Nutrition

Public Health England (PHE) has denied its flagship Change4Life campaign – which includes getting more children to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – is failing, despite shocking figures showing youngsters were eating only three portions a day.

Just 10% of boys and 7% of girls aged between 11 and 18 consumed the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, figures released last month by the National Diet & Nutrition Survey (NDNS) showed.

The NDNS reported on the state of the nation’s diet between 2008 and 2012 and highlighted, among other issues, that not enough fruit and vegetables were being consumed by all age groups, with older children and teenagers worst.

Healthier lives

“Evidence shows that Change4Life has a direct impact on people reporting healthier lives,”​ Dr Alison Tedstone, PHE’s chief nutritionist, said. More than 1.9M families had joined the scheme and over one million people had downloaded the app, she added.

A recently published health survey for England in 2012 had also shown the rate of increase in overweight and obese adults had slowed in recent years, said Tedstone.

However, nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton said the figures showed the Change4Life campaign, which was set up in 2009 to improve the health of the nation at a cost of £75M, was not working. “The government’s messages ​[about five-a-day] are not getting through, but when was the last time they did a campaign about five-a-day?”​ she asked.

The figures were a bad omen and suggested dietary patterns were deteriorating, Professor Judith Buttriss, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, said. “If these patterns persist into adulthood, it’s bad news for the health of the parents of the future and of course their children,”​ warned Buttriss.

Concern

In some cases, the diets of younger children were poorer than those of middle-aged and older adults, who consumed an average of 4.1 and 4.6 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, said Buttriss. “The low intakes are of concern because, although these foods don't provide all the essential nutrients we need, they are a marker of a healthy and varied diet,”​ she added.

Findings from the NDNS confirmed eating habits did not change quickly, added Tedstone. It was clear that government and the food industry had to work together to help people improve their diets, she said.

“The​ [NDNS] figures show that, overall, the population is still consuming too much saturated fat, added sugars and salt and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre, which over time increases the risk of heart disease and some cancers,”​ Tedstone added.

Meanwhile, the Food Manufacture Group is staging an independent, free, one-hour webinar on the causes of Britain's obesity crisis and its remedies at on Thursday July 3 at 11am GMT. Reserve your free place here​. 

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