While Canada is one of the world’s top 20 fruit consumers on a per capita basis, a recent study has found its citizens are still not eating enough servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
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The study “The Economic Benefits of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Canada”, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, found more than three-quarters of people do not meet Canada’s Food Guide recommendations.
This lack of produce consumption creates an estimated annual economic burden of CAD$4.39 billion (US$3.51 billion), made up of CAD$1.47 billion (US$1.18 billion) in direct costs and $2.92 billion (US$2.34 billion) in indirect costs that include premature mortality and disability.
“A significant majority of Canadians are not consuming the recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables, with important consequences to their health and the Canadian economy. Programs and policies are required to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption in Canada,” says Dr. Hans Krueger, study co-author.
According to the study, Canadians consume an average of 4.38 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
The report found that if consumption were to increase by 20% to 5.26 servings, there would be an approximate reduction in the economic burden of 20%, or CAD$878 million (US$702 million) annually.
The Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) supported this study and strongly favours an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption to improve the health of Canadians.
The association has called on the federal and provincial/territorial governments to establish policy statements supporting the goal of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption of Canadians by 20% over the next five years.
“This increase would be the equivalent of one additional serving a day of produce for all Canadians,” CPMA president Ron Lemaire said in a release.
“We know a balanced diet that’s rich in fruit and vegetables is the cornerstone of good health and an important line of defence against chronic disease and excess weight.”
Krueger is president of H. Krueger and Associates Inc. and Adjunct Professor at the School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine.
Who eats more fresh produce in Canada?
According to figures from Statistics Canada, in 2015 only 31.5% of Canadians aged 12 and older (around nine million people) reported they had consumed fruit and vegetable five or more times per day.
Females were more likely to consume this amount than males, at a rate of 38% compared to 24.8%.
Consumption was higher among males aged 12 to 17 (30.3%) compared to older males (around 24% for all other age groups), while females aged 12 to 17 (32.3%) reported a lower consumption of fruits and vegetables than older females (around 38% in the other age groups).
The proportion of residents consuming this benchmark of fruits and vegetables was lower than the national average in the following provinces:
• Newfoundland and Labrador (22.5%)
• Prince Edward Island (27.2%)
• Nova Scotia (25.3%)
• Ontario (28.7%)
• British Columbia (29.9%)
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada reported the proportion of residents who reported eating fruits and vegetables at least five times per day was higher than the national average in Quebec (38.8%).
“In 2015, fruit and vegetable consumption habits differed by the highest level of education attained by members of the household,” the agency said.
“When the highest level of education was below post-secondary, 24.3% of Canadians aged 12 and older ate fruits and vegetables five or more times per day.
“The proportion of people who consumed five or more fruits and vegetables per day was highest where post-secondary graduation was attained by a member of the household (33.4%).”
SOURCE Fresh Fruit Portal
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