The UK government is to help consumers understand what constitutes a “portion” of fruit or vegetables, in a bid to encourage people to eat more healthily.

The UK Food Standards Agency recommends that people eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day but many consumers are unclear exactly what constitutes one portion.

Later this year, a trademark will appear on some foods, guaranteeing that they can be counted as one of the “five-a-day” portions. Initially the trademark will apply to fresh and frozen produce and 100% fruit juices, but not products with added sugar, salt or fat. The latter products will be the subject of a review on how the trademark is used, which is to take place in the spring.

“We need to make it easy for people to make healthy choices and the development of our new logo is one way to achieve that,” Public Health Minister Hazel Blears was quoted by the BBC as saying.

“We hope the food industry will support this initiative to give consumers quick and easy access to the information they need to know what counts towards a healthy diet,” she added.

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The National Diet and Nutrition Survey published last month found that, on average, people ate just three portions per day.

Dr Wendy Doyle, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, told BBC News Online: “There have been, over the last number of years – including from the BDA – a number of initiatives, to try to encourage people to have their five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

“I hope the logo helps people understand that it is not as difficult as they think to have their five portions.”

The Food and Drink Federation, a representative of the UK food and drink manufacturing industry, today [Friday] said it looked forward to working with the government on nutritional criteria for five-a-day foods.

Speaking as the Department of Health explained its five-a-day logo, Martin Paterson, deputy director general of FDF said:

“The industry welcomes any addition to the range of healthy lifestyle information already available to consumers from manufacturers, retailers and health professionals, to help them enjoy a healthy diet.”

He added that the FDF looked forward to working with the government to drive these messages home and to helping the government complete its nutritional criteria to best inform consumers about the food they buy.