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The '5-a-day' campaign

23 March 2003

On 23 March 2003, the 5-a-day campaign was launched by the government to encourage people to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables to at least five portions. Health benefits such as reducing the risk of cardiac diseases, cancers and diabetes were clearly linked to the campaign.

Deciding what food to eat is not only a behavioural choice, but also an economic one, and the campaign has received criticism for targeting behaviours rather than the social determinants of health. A raft of initial research found that there was a rise in the amount of fruit and vegetables people were consuming and attributed this development to the 5-a-day campaign.

However, since its launch, the campaign has faced criticisms, in particular of claims about health benefits.

In 2010, a report found the link between eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and reductions in risks of cancer was weak. Furthermore, in 2014, University College London reported findings that suggested that seven portions of fruit and vegetable would actually cut the risk of cancer.

However, while a larger subsequent study also found that eating more fruit and vegetables was linked with a lower risk of dying from any cause, with the average risk of death falling by about 5% for every extra serving of fruit and vegetables, this trend only continued up to five servings a day, with no additional benefit from eating more than this.


Meikle J.
Fruit and vegetables have little effect on cancer risk, study finds.
The Guardian; 2010.

Stephens P.
Seven-a-day fruit and veg 'saves lives'.
BBC News; 2014.

Briggs H.
Fruit and veg: More than five-a-day 'no effect'.
BBC News; 2014.

Waterlander WE, de Haas WE, van Amstel I, Schuit AJ, Twisk JWR, Visser M, Seidell JC, Steenhuis IHM.
Energy density, energy costs and income – how are they related?
Public Health Nutrition.
2010; 13(10): 1599–1608.