1 Oct 2008

EU ministers back school fruit plan

8:21 am on 1 October 2008

EU agriculture ministers support a scheme offering free fresh fruit and vegetables to millions of schoolchildren next year as a way to promote healthy eating and tackle child obesity.

The scheme earmarks 90 million euros a year in funding, with each EU country matching the amount of cash that it receives from Brussels. The plan would be voluntary.

Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said on Tuesday it will help to reverse a decline in consumption of fruit and vegetables and contribute to fighting the problem with child obesity.

Many of the EU's 27 members, notably Denmark, want to see even more money put into the scheme, but Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Czech Republic are more reticent about the amount of EU cash involved.

The plan is likely to be agreed by ministers next month and would apply from the 2009/10 school year. It would give special status to economically poorer regions.

Another topic of debate is whether the school fruit and vegetables should primarily be locally grown or imported. Most ministers said they preferred to use EU produce although this point will remain open for next month's debate.