The EU is overweight and underfed

The international marketing magazine for fresh produce buyers in Europe
Mike Knowles



The EU is overweight and underfed

The UK is languishing at the bottom of the fresh produce availability scale, while obesity levels in Mediterranean countries are soaring

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Crikey! The Brits have only gone and harvested themselves a bumper crop of 19 Olympic gold medals. And there was me thinking that we were just a bunch of lard-arses who eat nothing but fatty, greasy foods that make us too lethargic even to press the button on the television remote control so we can watch something other than Big Brother every hour of our waking lives.

Back in June, I was crying into my low-fat, low-sugar, low-caffeine, low-calorie, low-esteem skinny latte (hold the cream) after reading Eurostat’s new study into the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables across the 27 European Nation member states. According to the report, Greece tops the chart when it comes to measuring the per-capita supply of fresh fruit and vegetables available to its inhabitants, with France, Denmark and Italy also performing well. At the other end of the scale, however, was the UK, with Lithuania, Bulgaria and Poland only marginally better off in terms of the amount of fresh produce available to their consumers.

Oh dear. If ever there was confirmation of our status as the sick man of Europe, here it was. But even more depressing was the report on obesity published later by the FAO, which found that in the 40 years to 2002 daily calorie intake in countries including Greece, Italy and Spain has increased by 30 per cent, more than the 20 per cent recorded in northern EU countries. The report also gave Greece the dubious honour of being the most overweight country in the EU, or more specifically the one with the highest proportion of overweight and obese people, at a button-busting 75 per cent. With more than half of the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese populations reportedly overweight too, the impact of fast food on a Mediterranean diet renowned for its health and life-extending qualities is plain to see.

How can this be? If Greece, having inspired its people with unprecedented Olympic glory four years ago and provided them with more fresh produce than any other country, can only watch helplessly as its population’s waistlines grow, then what chance, with an Olympic Games of its own on the horizon and the barest larders in Europe, does the UK have? With most EU countries failing to meet the WHO’s recommended daily intake of 400g of fruit and veg per person, the EC faces an uphill task in encouraging greater availability and consumption of fresh produce. But at the same time, the fruit and veg trade has a wonderful opportunity to go for gold.

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