Prescribing fruit and veg is a good step towards healthier living, say organic experts

The independent report that proposed GPs should be given the option to prescribe fruit and veg to those suffering from the effects of poor diet has been met with mixed responses since its release in recent weeks.

The National Food Strategy report, which also suggested a tax on sugar and salt, was commissioned by the government in 2019 but was met with lukewarm reception from the prime minister in recent weeks, who claimed he wasn’t “attracted to the idea of extra taxes” as a means of tackling obesity.

It comes after figures from the Food Foundation revealed that over 20,000 people in the UK die prematurely from low vegetable diets, and a further 64,000 deaths are attributed to poor overall diet in England alone.

However, even the idea of prescribing fruit and veg has been met with some hostility from people online who believe the proposals “medicalise” healthy eating and take agency away from people.

It has also been pointed out that poverty and the lack of access to resources like healthy food and the means to prepare and cook it are larger reasons for poor diet.

Despite this, food experts believe that these proposals, alongside recent changes in advertising laws, are positive steps towards a healthier country.

Harrison Jones is the founder of frozen organic company Equals Health, and he believes that suggestions like this aren’t a catch-all solution, but do open up wider discussions about healthy eating in general:

“It’s important that we look towards changing people's attitudes towards healthy eating in order to make lasting change”, Jones says.  “While medicalising fruits and vegetables emphasises their importance, we wouldn’t want them to be seen as intimidating, or encourage the mentality that eating fruit & vegetables should be a chore.

“It's key to remove the stigma that ‘healthy’ means boring or bland”, Jones continues.

“We are producing high quality, delicious meals, packed full of fresh ingredients. Our key difference is convenience, and that’s where I think we can really help make a difference.

“After a long day the average person typically wants something quick and satisfying - inherently this usually means unhealthy. Being able to fill your freezer with pre-prepared organic meals allows our customers to eat meals that are quick, satisfying and packed full of delicious ingredients.”

The Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard mirrored this sentiment, claiming that the report was a “massive wake up call to fix Britain’s broken food system”.

“We need a radical obesity strategy, ensuring families are able to access healthy food, supporting local leisure facilities and tackling rising child poverty”, Pollard continued.

It isn’t just health that the UK’s poor diet negatively impacts; according to the report, diet-related disease costs the economy £74bn a year, strains the NHS, and significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

It comes as the EU agriculture ministers greenlit the EU organic action plan which seeks to have a quarter of agricultural land farmed organically by 2030 through increasing demand, production and improving the contribution of organic farming to sustainability.