The Government campaign to persuade people to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day has been a multimillion-pound flop.
Official statistics show that the number of people meeting the ‘five-a-day’ target actually fell as the campaign went on.
This is despite the fact that over the past five years the Department of Health has spent more than £4million on marketing and advertising for the campaign – and that the total since the campaign was launched in 2002 will be much more than that.
Critics said yesterday that the money squandered was a clear example of nanny-state failure.
Many local primary care trusts have appointed ‘five-a-day’ advisers and run regional campaigns, including leaflet drops and talks.
Billboards have been put up in city centres and signs have gone up in supermarkets and doctors’ surgeries.
Fruit and vegetables
But between 2006 and 2009, the percentage of adults eating five portions of fruit and veg a day has fallen from 30 per cent to 26 per cent.
This equates to a fall from 12.1million to 10.9million, meaning that more than a million fewer people are eating the recommended amount.
The World Health Organisation claims that fruit and vegetables can prevent cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
But last year a major European study found that five a day had little effect on reducing cancer rates.
Government figures show that more than five million children – almost four out of five – eat less than the recommended amounts.
The typical amount the average adult eats has fallen slightly from 3.3 portions a day in 2006 to 3.2 three years later.
The number of adults eating no portions, or less than one portion, a day has gone up by 17 per cent, from 3.4million to 3.9million, over the same period.
Rich households are twice as likely to have five a day as those in the poorest households.
While 32 per cent of men and 37 per cent of women in the highest-income households meet the target, only 18 per cent of men and 19 per cent of women in the lowest-income households do.
In the poorest households, almost half of men and more than a third of women consumed no fruit other than juice.
Official figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show the Department of Health has spent £4,167,700 on marketing and advertising for the five-a-day campaign since 2006.
The campaign, which has been endorsed by celebrities such as England cricketers Andrew Flintoff and Ashley Giles, was launched in 2002.
But there are no figures to show how much was spent before 2006, so the department’s total could be double the amount for the last five years.
And the figures do not include the amount spent by primary care trusts around the country, which will have pushed it up even higher.
Emma Boon, campaign director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It’s ridiculous that the Department of Health has spent so much on this failed campaign.
‘Taxpayers want their money to be spent on frontline healthcare, not on bossy people telling us what to eat.
Hiring staff specifically to tell us to eat fruit and veg is madness, and these non-jobs must go to save taxpayers’ money.
‘Primary care trusts need to look at the outcomes of initiatives like this and stop thinking that putting more taxpayers’ money in is the solution.’