New study in the Lancet calculates historical and future availability of fruit and vegetables compared to the amount recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of a healthy diet. The modeling also accounts for food loss and waste, and uses the World Cancer Research Fund International Council NOURISHING framework and the Nuffield Ladder to assess existing policies that support healthy diets. A very useful report that looks at factors influencing the production and consumption of fruit and vegetables around the world, with important implications for researchers, producers and policy makers.
A summary of key findings from the report are below:
- Historically, fruit and vegetable availability has consistently been insufficient to supply recommended consumption levels.
- By 2015, 81 countries representing 55% of the global population had average fruit and vegetable availability above WHO's minimum target.
- Under more stringent age-specific recommendations, only 40 countries representing 36% of the global population had adequate availability.
- Although economic growth will help to increase fruit and vegetable availability in the future, particularly in lower-income countries, this alone will be insufficient. Even under the most optimistic socioeconomic scenarios (excluding food waste), many countries fail to achieve sufficient fruit and vegetable availability to meet even the minimum recommended target.
- Sub-Saharan Africa is a particular region of concern, with projections suggesting, by 2050, between 0·8 and 1·9 billion people could live in countries with average fruit and vegetable availability below 400 g/person per day.
- Food waste is a serious obstacle that could erode projected gains.
- Assuming 33% waste and socioeconomic trends similar to historical patterns, the global average availability in 2050 falls below age-specific recommendations, increasing the number of people living in countries with insufficient supply of fruits and vegetables by 1·5 billion compared with a zero waste scenario.
- To address shortcoming of vegetable production and consumption, systematic public policy targeting the constraints to producing and consuming fruits and vegetables will be needed.
- This will require a portfolio of interventions and investments that focus on increasing fruit and vegetable production, developing technologies and practices to reduce waste without increasing the consumer cost, and increasing existing efforts to educate consumers on healthy diets.