Food and Behaviour Research

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06 February 2015 - The Conversation - Food fight: is business trying to game the five-a-day system?

Carol Williams, Senior Lecturer Health Promotion and Public Health at University of Brighton

We are on the brink of an important change in how we are encouraged to think about our diet. Britain’s health authorities are considering whether to allow processed or “composite foods” to carry the official five-a-day logo. But is it time to confront the inconvenient reality: that an apple which has been juiced, pureed, or wrapped in pastry is simply not the same as an apple on a core?

Currently use of the official five squares logo is restricted to foods which are 100% fruit or vegetable. This hasn’t stopped manufacturers from developing their own logos and claiming that a wide variety of foods from tinned spaghetti to fruit jellies can “count towards one of your five-a-day”.

The public needs consistency and clarity about how five-a-day is applied to products. However there is a fine balance between lowering the thresholds of eligibility to encourage more manufacturers and retailers to use the official logo, versus endorsing products which generally take consumers further away from a “healthy balanced diet”.

Public Health England (PHE), an executive arm of the Department of Health, is consulting with an “external reference group” of non-governmental organisations and manufacturers, and has drafted proposals to put to the group for a meeting on the February 20 (2015). These proposals include limits on how much fat, sugar and salt foods carrying the official logo could contain. These might provide some safeguards, but we are still in danger of losing sight of the change that the five-a-day health campaign set out to achieve.