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Shocking Decline: Fruit and Vegetable Intake Plummets as Policymakers Miss the Mark

The average fruit and vegetable consumption within the EU declined to 350 grams per capita per day in 2022, according to Freshfel Europe's latest Consumption Monitor. The positive momentum triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic was reversed by the subsequent economic crisis, which eroded consumers' purchasing power.



Freshfel emphasised the inherent value of fresh fruit and vegetables, citing their undeniable health benefits and minimal environmental impact. They asserted that fruit and vegetables offer solutions to societal concerns and their consumption should significantly exceed the WHO recommended daily target of 400 grams per capita.


The release of Freshfel Europe's updated European Fresh Produce Consumption Monitor offers a comparative analysis of EU-27 consumption trends, both collectively and within individual Member States. The data draws from official EUROSTAT and FAOSTAT figures.


Over the past two decades, the Freshfel Europe Consumption Monitor has emerged as a vital tool for assessing European trends in the production, trade, and consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.


The report's revised format and consistent methodology have solidified its position as an indispensable reference for the sector and policymakers seeking insights into business trends and changing dietary habits.


This year's report revealed a 5% drop in average EU fruit and vegetable consumption from 2021, landing it at 350 grams per capita per day. This figure also falls nearly 3% below the five-year average and remains over 12% short of the WHO's recommended 400 grams.


Shockingly, only six EU nations achieve the recommended intake, demonstrating a significant need to bolster consumption across the bloc.


The EU-27 fresh produce market contracted to 71.35 million tonnes in 2022. This decline marks the end of the expansion initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which had prompted healthier lifestyles among Europeans alongside increased concern for environmental issues.


However, the economic crisis, escalating prices, and widespread inflation that took root in 2022 placed renewed pressure on fruit and vegetable consumption across the bloc as consumers sought the most affordable food options.


"In times of economic uncertainties, consumers tend to move towards a less healthy diet, which is perceived to be more energy satisfactory and a cheaper food option than fruit and vegetables," observed Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel Europe.


"Beyond the findings of 2022 Monitor, the preliminary data for 2023-2024 confirm the ongoing decline trends which reached in many cases more than 10%, meaning that the post-pandemic consumption growth has now been totally lost."


As the EU's current legislative term nears its end, the success of the push for plant-based diets is called into question. Policy inconsistencies and a lack of coherence between the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan, and Europe's Beating Cancer Plan have hampered efforts to promote healthier and more sustainability-focused eating habits.


The chance to give fresh produce positive preferential treatment has been squandered. Policymakers have largely failed to elevate fruit and vegetables within the food supply. They must be viewed as public goods crucial to overcoming societal challenges and be categorised as essential products.


"National nutritional guidelines, Nordic Council recommendations and EGEA scientists agree that the ambition and the consumption target need to be raised towards 800 g/capita/day," stated Binard. "While the awareness is there, too many obstacles still prevent the growth.”


The benefits of fruits and vegetables warrant greater emphasis in promotional policies and the upcoming sustainable finance taxonomy debate. Misconceptions surrounding price and safety must be dispelled to empower consumers to make informed decisions.


Simultaneously, the sector must continue pursuing innovation for increased convenience, enhancing taste and texture, tailoring marketing to the youth, and securing support to ensure affordability and accessibility for low-income households.


Fresh produce possesses numerous advantages and remains an affordable dietary mainstay for consumers. The fruit and vegetable sector and public authorities must collaborate to cultivate sustainable consumption habits that recognise the benefits of fresh produce for the planet, the climate, and the health of consumers.


Urgent action is needed to reverse consumption trends, especially among younger generations.

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