The researchers found that one-quarter of French adults ate five portions of fruit or vegetables per day in 2016, down from 31% in 2010. Moreover, the number of adults consuming a “small” amount of fresh produce – 3.5 portions or less per day – rose by 9% in the period, climbing to 54%.
Crédoc noted a similar pattern in children aged 17 and under, with 45% consuming fewer than two portions per day in 2016 compared to 32% in 2010.
The education factor
Analysing the statistical data, researchers found education levels were a primary driver for lower consumption.
Nearly half of all children living in households where the “head of household” does not have a diploma consume less than two portions of fruit and vegetables. This level drops to 23% in households where the primary breadwinner is university educated.
However, looking at the data related to adult consumption, Crédoc concluded that younger adults are less likely to eat the recommended levels of fruit and vegetables regardless of educational attainment. The research body said this theory was supported by the fact that the 2010-2016 increase in consumers with a “small” vegetable intake was “significantly higher among graduates”.
“This phenomenon can be [explained] in part by the generation effect,” Crédoc noted.
Younger consumers missing five-a-day target
People born between 1987 and 1996 in France are eating less fruit and vegetables than their parents did at the same age.
On average, at the age of 25, this generation are consuming 50g per day of vegetables and 45g of fruit.
At the same age, people born between 1967 and 1976 were eating more than twice as much: 145g of vegetables and 100g of fruit.
Researchers suggested the reason for this was increased urbanisation and changes in the balance between work and home life. These shifts are prompting younger generations to eat out more and increase their consumption of convenience items like pizzas, quiches, sandwiches, pasta or rice.
Time constraints are also seen as a factor prompting larger families to eat less fruit and vegetables, Crédoc said. Children in families with three or more siblings are 17% more likely to fall into the low consumption category than families with one child.
The observation also holds true for the adult population. In childless households, 40% of people fall into the low consumption group. This increases to 69% in houses with three or more children.
Consumers who live in large fruit and vegetable producing areas, in the southwest and southeast of France, were less likely to have reduced their consumption levels. In contrast, consumers in northern France are cutting their consumption ahead of the national average decline.
The number of consumers who eat a “small” amount of fruit and veg daily in northern France rose by 21% in children and 30% in adults, compared to the national average increase of 11% in children and 9% in adults.
France’s National Health Programme
Crédoc stressed the report shows 15 years after the introduction of the Programme National Nutrition Santé (PNNS), which targets improved nutritional health and aims to address problems like rising obesity levels, progress has not been made on the policy’s stated ambition to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.
Crédoc suggested that “targeted public policies” to address social and regional inequalities and promote healthy eating should be implemented.