Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 17:43 UK

EU launches school fruit campaign

Girls choosing vegetables in London
The EU wants children to develop healthy tastes early on

The European Commission has launched a scheme to provide free fruit and vegetables to schools across Europe in a drive to curb child obesity.

The commission aims to spend 90m euros (71m; $141m) annually on the scheme - a sum to be matched by participating governments, who are yet to approve it.

About 22 million children in the EU are overweight - more than five million of them obese, the commission warns.

The figure is expected to rise by

400,000 annually.

The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of 400g of fruit and vegetables per person. Most of the EU's 27 member states currently fail to meet that target.

"Giving kids good habits at an early age is crucial, as they will carry these into later life," said EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, launching the scheme on Tuesday.

"Too many of our children eat far too little fruit and vegetables and often don't appreciate how delicious they are.

"You only have to walk down any high street in Europe to see the extent of the problems we face with overweight kids. Let's do something about it."

Earlier this year the EU's statistics agency Eurostat released data showing a wide divergence in the availability of fruit and vegetables among member states.

The figures, showing averages during the period 2001-2007, revealed British consumers as having the lowest supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, while per capita availability was highest in Greece and France.

Retail prices of fruit and vegetables also varied considerably across the EU. In 2006, the prices were about half the EU average in Bulgaria and about one-third above the average in the Republic of Ireland.

Graph showing availability of fruit and veg in EU

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