THE CSIRO has thrown is support behind the newly launched Fruit & Vegetable Consortium.
Announced in April this year, the group now boasts 130 supporter organisations as it heads towards completing its vegetable business case this month.
The organisation will now start presenting to government in order to secure funding.
The Queensland government initiative, Health & Wellbeing Qld, has also signed on.
The FVC was formed in response to the alarmingly low rates of fruit and vegetable consumption in Australia.
Consortium chair and Nutrition Australia chief executive officer, Lucinda Hancock, said the increased support from the community in lifting consumption of fruits and vegetables showed that there was support for meaningful action in improving health and well-being outcomes for the community.
"The link between a healthy diet that incorporates fruits and vegetables and better health and well-being outcomes is well established, and it will take a coordinated, resourced effort across the entire food industry to boost consumption," Ms Hancock said.
"The job of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is a critically important task that has been made more apparent in the last few months due to the pandemic.
"Declining rates of vegetable consumption are of great concern, with the average Australian eating around 13 kilograms fewer vegetables per year than 20 years ago - around half a serve per day."
"Boosting fruit and vegetable consumption is too much for a single person or organisation.
"This Consortium was established out of a common imperative to increase fruit and vegetable consumption with the aim of improving health outcomes for Australians and their families."
"We are happy to have CSIRO come on board as a member of the Consortium, as it brings with it important research and networks in the local and international research community that will ensure the Consortium has a wider range of expertise to draw upon."
The Consortium has also signed up more than 130 supporters on its website, which have committed to supporting the development of more effective marketing and promotional interventions.
A key feature of the work of the Consortium is that it will be built on a solid foundation of behavioural science and focus on increasing people's enjoyment of eating vegetables.
Through this approach, it plans to deliver significant long-term change to fruit and vegetable consumption.
CSIRO Nutrition and Health Research director, associate professor Bev Muhlhausler, said research continues to demonstrate the importance between a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and living a healthy well-balanced lifestyle.
"From helping to prevent major diseases including some cancers and cardiovascular diseases, to improving gastrointestinal health, it is important that we are all getting the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables," associate professor Muhlhausler said.
Stats paint unhealthy picture
A RECENT report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicated Australians are only buying enough vegetables for 2.3 daily serves, well short of the recommended five or more daily serves.
The ABS figures were taken from the recently-published Apparent Consumption of Foodstuffs, Australia, 2018-19, and reported on sales of foods from supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience and specialty stores.
For this report, "apparent consumption" refers to the amount of food purchased based on sales data, but does not measure actual consumption as it does not account for food purchased from restaurants, fast foods and cafes, or food not consumed through waste or storage.
Upping Aussie vegetable, fruit and nut consumption continues to be a major plank for Ausveg.
Ausveg chief executive officer, James Whiteside, said the latest figures from the ABS were concerning, given the importance of a vegetable-rich diet in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and the myriad health benefits that come from eating fresh vegetables.
People tend to eat more vegetables when they are able to eat out at cafes and restaurants.
"The message is clear - you need to buy enough vegetables so that you can eat enough vegetables," Mr Whiteside said.
"The reality is that most Australians are setting themselves up for failure in meeting the recommended intake of vegetables by not buying enough vegetables.
"We know that most Australians do not eat enough vegetables to meet the recommended dietary guidelines.
"Given the report investigated apparent consumption through sales data and not actual consumption, it is likely that the current intake of vegetables is actually lower than this report indicates, particularly at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"People tend to eat more vegetables when they are able to eat out at cafes and restaurants.
"The disruption of the food service sector from the pandemic has severely limited this avenue, and unfortunately people are not buying more vegetables to compensate for this."
The recommended daily vegetable intake used in the report is derived from the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines, which recommends that adults should eat at least five servings of vegetables a day, with one serving of vegetables equivalent to half a cup of cooked vegetables, half a medium potato, or one cup of salad vegetables.
"The health benefits of increasing vegetable consumption are well-documented, but the rates of consumption are still unacceptably low - and getting lower," Mr Whiteside said.
"Vegetable growers are deeply committed to increasing vegetable consumption and are working alongside the food and health industries as part of the Fruit and Vegetable Consortium to pool research, knowledge and passion to improve the health and wellbeing of Australian men, women and children."
"The Fruit & Vegetable Consortium is also developing a business case and prospectus for potential funders, including government, retailers and other interested sectors, to outline the investment needed for a sustained, comprehensive behavioural change campaign to increase vegetable consumption."
"There are also other industry initiatives aimed at boosting vegetable consumption, including the Fruit & Vegetable Consortium, Queensland-based industry group Growcom's Eat Yourself to Health campaign and the Good Mood Food campaign from grower-owned research and development corporation Hort Innovation."
"Eating a vegetable-rich diet has a plethora of documented health benefits that are essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
"More work needs to be done to boost vegetable intake and industry is looking at ways to help Australians eat more vegetables and improve their health and wellbeing."
CSIRO joins the Fruit & Vegetable Consortium along with other members:
- Nutrition Australia
- The Cancer Council of Victoria
- Heart Foundation
- The Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition
- Health and Wellbeing Queensland
- Melbourne Market
- Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation
- The Good Foundation
- The Produce Marketing Association of Australia - New Zealand