A nutrition expert has slammed the UK government's National School Fruit Scheme, a programme introduced in November 2000 to provide young children with a free piece of fruit at school every day.

Tom Sanders, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at King's College London, told delegates at a Food Foundation debate: "The nutritional contribution this makes to their diet is trivial. The cost of this scheme is a staggering £52m (US$73.2m).

"While there may be a case for a smaller scale project targeted at low income groups where fruit is not consumed, this blanket approach is a logistical nightmare and a wasteful use of scarce resources."

Sanders concluded: "I would propose that the £52m which the Government is squandering on the School Fruit Scheme would be better invested into human nutritional research."

The scheme was introduced as part of a government drive to promote healthy eating as a means to prevent cancer and heart disease.