safefood urges consumers to increase intake of fruit and vegetables

Friday 11 October, 2013. Findings from safefood’s latest consumer review¹ of the fruit and vegetable food chain has revealed that despite 75% of Irish consumers being able to identify that they should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, only a third (36%) of consumers say they are doing so. The average intake² of fruit and vegetables is currently less than half that recommended, at 2.4 portions per day.

Dr Aileen McGloin, Scientific Support Manager with safefood said “It’s encouraging to see that people know how much they should be eating; when we last carried out our review, less than half the population knew the ‘5-a-day’ message but now 3 out of 4 people do. But we now need to get people to eat more of them. The health benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can’t be underestimated; one recent study³ has calculated that approximately 100 deaths from cardiovascular disease could be saved each year if fruit and vegetable consumption increased by one portion a day”.

The safefood review also found that issues to do with cost, shelf life, preparation time and habit were seen by consumers as barriers to buying and consuming more fruit and vegetables.

There are many practical ways of getting more fruit and vegetables on our plates and especially, our children’s”

continued Dr McGloin. “Whether it’s an apple or banana as a snack, salad in a lunchtime sandwich or vegetables with a main meal, there are lots of ways we can increase our portions, even by one more a day. Tinned and frozen varieties which are quick and easy to prepare are also convenient ways to have more fruit and vegetables.”

In relation to consumer food safety concerns, safefood’s review found that these mainly focused on freshness of the product. Seventeen per cent of consumers reported that they are not concerned about the safety of their fruit and vegetables.

Dr McGloin continued “Although the risks are low, consumers should exercise common sense when preparing and storing fresh produce. Raw fruit or vegetables should be washed thoroughly before eating or cooking while prepared fruit and vegetables such as salad leaves should be kept in the fridge, away from raw meat and poultry. Consumers should also follow the latest food safety advice when using imported, frozen berries by boiling them for one minute before use”.

The review by safefood A Consumer Review of the Fruit and Vegetable Food Chain” is available to download.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact

Julie Carroll, Dermot Moriarty safefood

+353 1 448 0600 / or 086 381 1034



¹safefood A Consumer Review of the Fruit and Vegetable Food Chain.

²National Adult Nutrition Survey (NANS) 2011.

  • The average intake of fruit and vegetables (excluding fruit juices and composite dishes) was 192g (2.4 portions).
  • Only 9% of those aged 18-64 and 15% of those aged 65 and over meet the World Health Organisation recommendation⁴ of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day.

³Modelling the impact of specific food policy options on coronary heart disease and stroke deaths in Ireland. BMJ Open. 2013; 3(7): e002837. Published online July 2013.

Celine O'Keeffe, Zubair Kabir, Martin O'Flaherty, Janette Walton, Simon Capewell, and Ivan J Perry

Insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables is estimated to cause about 11 per cent of ischaemic heart disease deaths, about nine per cent of stroke deaths and around 14 per cent of gastrointestinal cancer deaths globally. In the European Union, 3.5 per cent of disease burden is considered to be due to low fruit and vegetable intake.

In 2001, the European Prospective Study of Cancer (EPIC) estimated that an increase in fruit and vegetable intake of just 50g/d has the potential of cutting the risk of premature death from any cause by 20 per cent

⁴The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates a daily intake of 400g of fruit and vegetables for health – approximately five portions based on an average weight of 80g per portion.

Editor’s Notes

What is a portion of fruit and vegetables?

One portion of fruit and vegetables is;

  • 1 large piece of fruit, i.e. 1 apple, 1 orange, 1 banana
  • 2 small pieces of fruit, i.e. 2 satsumas, 2 kiwis
  • 100ml of unsweetened pure fruit juice (1 small carton = 200ml)
  • ½ a tin of fruit, in its own juice
  • 3 tablespoons / 4 dessertspoons vegetables i.e. carrots – chopped or grated
  • 1 small salad, i.e. lettuce, tomato, cucumber, celery sticks

About this review

This latest review is provides an update on the review first conducted in 2007. It collates and considers the information available – academic, regulatory, public health – on the health and food safety implications of fruit and vegetables. It focuses on ready-to-eat (RTE) fresh fruit and vegetables which are consumed raw, whether whole or prepared, and includes products packaged under vacuum or in a modified atmosphere that have not undergone any treatment (chemical, physical or biological) to ensure preservation, other than chilling.

A summary document giving a brief overview of the findings of the review and the full report are both available on safefood’s website at

For the purpose of the review, potatoes are excluded as they are classed as ‘Breads, Cereals and Potatoes’ food group due to their high starch content and are not consumed raw.