The struggle to increase fruit and vegetable consumption - part of the Quest for Quality Food

14 July 2014

The ineffectiveness of campaigns promoting fruit and vegetable consumption and the work behind making one of Australia's most popular vegetables healthier are among presentations at an international symposium on the future of Australia's food industry, hosted by the University of Sydney on 15 July.

The Symposium brings together international and Australian experts to present their latest innovations and ideas that will drive the industry's future. In Australia alone (based on 2011-2012 figures) the food industry is worth more than $110 billion.

Recent statistics show just 6.8 per cent of Australians consume the recommended intake of vegetables with just over half meeting recommendations for fruit intake. Interventions designed to increase their consumption have had, at best, a modest to low impact according to a research review being delivered at The Quest for Quality Food Research Symposium 2014, hosted by the University's Faculty of Agriculture and Environment.

Co-written by the symposium's chair Professor Robyn McConchie, this review (see attached) shows campaigns are more successful when there is a high degree of collaboration between producers, retail, government and non-government organisations (eg cancer societies).

Generic, mass-marketed campaigns covering a large product base - such as all fruits and vegetables - have a lower impact compared with interventions targeting particular groups, such as children, the paper says.

Campaigns promoting a set number of servings per day are also problematic, with many consumers unclear about what constitutes a serve of fruit or vegetables. "Marketing interventions might do better to promote that healthy eating goes hand-in-hand with appealing, flavourful food, and one is not in competition with the other," the paper suggests.

The potato also comes under the spotlight at the symposium. Although a popular choice for consumers it often gets a bad rap for being a high Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrate. University of Sydney PhD student Kai Lin Ek identified a cultivar of potato that is between 30-50 percent lower in GI than other mainstream potatoes. Since then, the cultivar has officially been released to market. Professor Les Copeland will outline how this discovery unfolded.

The quest for Quality Food Research is designed to highlight the growing need for research to ensure we are producing sustainable, affordable and nutritious food, says Professor McConchie.
"We need to increase yields sustainably; address availability, affordability and uneven global distribution; and reduce waste and increase energy efficiency."

Other speakers at the symposium include:

•Keynote speaker Dr Rickey Yoshio Yada from Canada's University of Guelph will outline the opportunities and challenges that food nanoscience and technologies offer the industry in the context of regulations, education, consumer acceptance and perception, and how they fit within this rapidly expanding field.
Professor Richard Trethowan from the University, will discuss creating the genetic potential for improved food and realising this genetic potential. New genetic diversity, efficient breeding strategies and collaboration are vital to developing crop cultivars with the potential to produce more food with better processing and nutritional quality.
•Chanel White from leading fresh produce supplier Perfection Fresh, will outline key factors essential to new product development in the fresh food industry.
The symposium is free and open to the public.

Event details:

What: The Quest for Quality Food Research Symposium 2014
When: Tuesday 15 July, 8am-6pm
Where: New Law Lecture Theatre 101, The University of Sydney
Cost: Free

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