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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
Call for cut-price fruit and veg
oranges
90% back free fruit and veg for children
Over 80% of people say the government should subsidise the cost of fruit and vegetables to encourage healthy eating, a BBC survey has suggested.

ICM conducted a phone poll of 1,010 adults across England, Wales and Scotland.

Experts said the cost of fruit and veg did deter people from eating healthily.

The Healthy Britain poll also found a minority of people, 17%, felt the NHS should not provide treatment for obesity-related diseases.

And 35% thought that obese people should contribute to the cost of such care.

Barriers such as the high cost of fresh fruit and vegetables and limited free access to sports facilities are preventing many people from leading a healthy lifestyle
Paul Streets, Health Development Agency

Eighty-one per cent of those surveyed said the government should spend more on campaigns and support services to promote diet and exercise.

The same number agreed it should make it more difficult to eat unhealthily by restricting salt, fat and sugar in processed food, and should support free and subsidised gyms.

Many people backed measures which could cut childhood obesity.

Three quarters said junk food ads should not be shown between children's TV programmes and 60% supported a ban on supermarkets displaying sweets by check outs.

Vending machines ban

The poll showed schools are also expected to act. Eighty-nine per cent said there should be a legal obligation on them to ensure children ate healthily while they were at school.

The same percentage said the amount of exercise children were required to do under the National Curriculum should be increased.

Eighty per cent said the government should prevent schools from raising extra funds from vending machines which sell junk food and fizzy drinks.

A majority also supported the extension of the free fruit and vegetables scheme to all children. The scheme is currently available in some primary schools.

A third of those questioned felt parents who consistently failed to provide their children with a healthy diet should ultimately face prosecution.

When it came to adult health, 91% agreed the government should encourage people to walk and cycle by providing safer pavements and more cycle lanes.

Just over a third backed a tax on foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat.

However, while 57% of those polled said it was right that the government should try to change people's behaviour in relation to what they eat, 65% think what people eat is up to them.

Other findings of the poll were:

  • While 12% of people in social class AB said obese people should contribute towards their NHS care, the figure rose to 27% in social class DE.

  • 53% of people said smokers should contribute to the cost of treatment for smoking-related diseases.

  • Almost a quarter of smokers agreed with such a move, along with 71% of non-smokers and 53% of ex-smokers.

Paul Streets, Chief Executive, Health Development Agency said: "The findings of this poll are a clear signal that a stronger partnership for health between the government and the public is needed to reduce ill-health.

"Barriers such as the high cost of fresh fruit and vegetables and limited free access to sports facilities are preventing many people from leading a healthy lifestyle."

He added: "'We support the proposed restrictions on advertising to young children, but a coherent approach is needed that includes promotions in schools, sponsorship schemes and magazines."

Martin Paterson, Deputy Director General of the Food and Drink Federation, said: "The UK food and drink manufacturing industry agrees with the recent Ofcom findings that a ban on food and drink advertising would be neither proportionate nor effective.

"Also ineffective would be a so called 'fat tax' levied on specific food types. A fat tax would operate like a poll tax on food, penalising lower income families who spend a higher proportion of their income on food and drink."


How should obesity be tackled? Would banning junk food ads between children's TV programmes make a difference? Would you support the idea of a tax on fatty and salty foods?

Read selection of your comments:

It's well known that supermarkets reject any fruit or vegetable not of a given shape, size or colour
Mark Schubert, Malaga, Spain
Fruit and veg prices are high in British supermarkets because of the (supermarkets own) obsession with the appearance of the produce itself, and the absurd degree of packaging used. It's well known that supermarkets reject any fruit or vegetable not of a given shape, size or colour. If people bought wisely from markets etc they will get much better produce at a far more reasonable cost.
Mark Schubert, Malaga, Spain

Healthy eating is important for all. I strongly agree with lowering fruit and veg prices as this will promote healthier eating. I would also like to suggest that leisure centres extend their opening hours for Saturday and Sunday until 10'oclock and also reduce their entrance fees. This will certainly promote a healthier living as many people can use the facilities as and when to suit with work lifestyle.
Atik Rahman, Birmingham

Hear-hear to the 91% favouring cycle and walking to school, this is the way to reduce fat. Because of a growing obesity problem, Finland has banned the "school run" everyone cycles, walks or skis and as a result obesity is in reverse. Yes eat healthily but take a walk as well and it's cheaper than a fitness club too!
Graham Carter, Lower Darwen, England

The television channels are awash with cookery programmes, but not one of them focuses on how to cook healthily or to lose weight. Why?
Helena, Hastings UK

You have to concentrate on buying filling food within your budget
Maxine, Manchester, UK
I think the comments of most people betray their (better) economic backgrounds. If you have to do a shop for a family on a budget of 20-30 (including non-grocery items like nappies, washing powder etc), then you have to concentrate on buying filling food within your budget and although fruit and veg is good for you it doesn't fill your kids up. Fruit and veg may not be that expensive in relative terms but it just doesn't fit into a low budget.
Maxine, Manchester, UK

The absolute key to children's health is sport and exercise; it should be as much a part of the national curriculum as Maths and English. Why can't the government take responsibility for the fitness of our children rather than thinking up yet another tax which would punish lower income families?
Ali Mcgougan, London

I'm not sure whether my school was an exception, but we were taught all about healthy eating - it was called Home Economics. We also had a high proportion of compulsory physical education. I don't remember anyone being significantly over-weight.
Lindsay, Norfolk, UK

I eat healthy and have done for many years now, for me it doesn't come down to price, what price do you put on health? Think of all the people who eat junk food then add the money they spend on medicines and visits to the doctors/dentists etc, then compare that to what a healthy person eats and what they don't spend on visits to the doctor/dentist or buying medicines. I haven't been to the doctor in over 5 years, so don't go telling me that eating healthy is expensive, work out the total cost of eating healthy and eating junk food and everything else that comes with junk food!
Mike Silver, Oxford, UK

Past governments have all but forced schools to sell off playing fields
Steve Futcher, Stockport, UK
Primary responsibility for diet rests with parents. Subsidising fruit and veg is not the answer but tackling the issues that lead to parents being unable to afford fresh produce is. Where government does have a role is in the promotion of sports activities. Past governments have all but forced schools to sell off playing fields and insurance issues prevent school sports days from taking place
Steve Futcher, Stockport, UK

Fruit and veg is already cheap, especially when compared to ready meals and chocolate snacks in the same supermarket. Anyone who thinks differently obviously hasn't walked down the produce aisle recently.
Will Gent, London

I'm morbidly obese and know that I have nobody but myself to blame for this. It would have been better had I been made more aware of the importance of healthy eating as a youngster I wouldn't have the mindset I have now. I would love to lead a healthier lifestyle, but throughout most people's childhood, social conditioning makes us think that fruit and veg are bad and that chips and chocolate are two of the major food groups!
Kathryn, Yorkshire

To make good choices in food you need education in nutrition, budgeting and meal preparation
Sue, UK
We consumers are responsible for this situation. We wanted cheaper food - we got it but at the expense of quality. Junk food (including pre-packaged ready meals) are cheap and easy. Many people lack the basic skills to cook meals from scratch and therefore cannot teach their children to choose food wisely. To make good choices in food you need education in nutrition, budgeting and meal preparation. There are whole sectors of society who are deprived of these skills. The people who 'lead' our country are too detached from normal life to understand ordinary family life these days.
Sue, UK

I see most parents putting a family size pack of crisps in their trolley when they could replace that with an apple each for around the same price and in some cases more cheaply!
Marc, Bangor, N.Wales

Why does everything have to have an increase in tax? Why not reward by making it tax free or subsidised?
Peter, Herts, England

Most people have access to a garden of some sort. Why not encourage children to grow their own veg/fruit which might lead to them wanting to eat it?
Gordon B, Bury St Edmunds UK

Why should responsible people who keep an eye on their health have to pay if they fancy a packet of crisps?
Dave J, London
Does making vegetables cheaper make them taste better than chocolate and chips then? I doubt it. And as to taxing salty and fatty food - why should responsible people who keep an eye on their health have to pay if they fancy a packet of crisps?
Dave J, London

I think the government has to carefully weigh the cost of restricting personal choice. On one hand, obesity costs the NHS millions every year. On the other hand, I'd consider it an infringement on my personal rights if the government was deciding what I have for dinner. Perhaps the answer is to educate rather than dictate?
Anthony, Colchester, UK

I believe having lower cost leisure centres/gyms/sports centres, that can be affordable to all and not just the well off, can encourage every one to get healthy.
Alice John, Hounslow, England

I believe high fat and salty processed foods should have VAT put on them, and packaging clearly marked to that effect. This would enable people to know instantly that they were buying an item which could potentially harm their health.
Georgina Grant, Guildford, UK

The so called high cost of fruit & veg is just an excuse trotted out by people too bone idle to prepare fresh food
Andrew Taylor, Nottingham, UK
The so called high cost of fruit & veg is just an excuse trotted out by people too bone idle to prepare fresh food. Yes, imported produce, out of season for UK and sold by supermarkets can be expensive. Stick to "seasonal" UK / locally produced produce and the cost is not high.
Andrew Taylor, Nottingham, UK

Fruit is not expensive. Why do people keep on saying it is? Five minutes research on a supermarket website gives these prices: 6 chocolate bars: 1.25 (21p each) 10 crisps: 1.79 (15p each) 8 Gala Apples: 1.89 (23p each) 5 Bananas: 0.75 (15p each).
David Chambers, London England

While I am overweight myself, I certainly don't blame the government - we all make our own choices. However, the more it can do by way of education about healthier eating, the better. How about educating people about how surprisingly easy it is to make a balanced, nutritious meal? I think a lot of people are put off by the idea that it will be too time-consuming. It also seems entirely logical to me that a tax on salty, fatty, "unhealthy" foods should be used to subsidise the cost of fruit and veg, which would encourage poorer families (and students!) to eat more healthily.
Serena Aylward, London, UK




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