A new study casts doubt on how much education campaigns have raised fruit and vegetable consumption.
The head of the U.S. consumption effort, however, questions many of the study’s findings.
Reetica Rekhy and Robyn McConchie, researchers in the Department of Plant and Food Sciences at Australia’s University of Sydney, published their research in the August edition of the journal Appetite.
Their study concludes that daily consumption of fruits and vegetables worldwide is “well below” recommended World Health Organization levels, and that consumption campaigns have not had a significant effect in raising consumption.
“A diversity of policy interventions designed to increase consumption have been conducted in the developed economies around the globe for over a decade, involving significant monetary outlays,” according to the report. “The impact of these initiatives remains, at best, modest to low.”
The study reviews several promotional campaigns in particular, including the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters campaign in the U.S.
Consumption campaigns are more successful, according to the University of Sydney researchers, when there is significant collaboration between producers, retailers and government and non-government organizations.
In addition, generic, mass-marketed campaigns covering a large product bases — all fruits and vegetables, for example — aren’t as effective as campaigns targeting particular groups, such as children.
Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer of the Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation, which oversees More Matters, said the University of Sydney research has several flaws.
One, the study did not look at how much campaigns spend per person, Pivonka said. More Matters must reach more people in the U.S. with a smaller relative budget.
In addition, PBH is already trying the “novel approaches” to increasing consumption the researchers recommend.
“We have new efforts with health professionals, expanded efforts in social media and a new grant program,” Pivonka said.
Pivonka also said that More Matters and other campaigns never claimed to be a cure-all for raising consumption rates.
“None of our countries have ever said that promotion/education alone was going to change behavior,” she said.
The recent decline in some obesity rates, for instance, is the product of several factors, including better marketing of healthy foods, better access to healthy foods and reduced marketing of unhealthy foods, Pivonka said.