Over the last seven days, up to 200,000 children in England and Wales have eaten either no fruit or no vegetables, according to recent MORI poll research commissioned by the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) in conjunction with frozen food retailer Iceland.
The research quizzed a representative sample of 2,635 11-16 year olds, across 111 schools in England and Wales, about their eating habits.
The government recommends that children eat at least 35 portions of fruit and vegetables every seven days, however the poll uncovered the disturbing information that up to 6% of children had eaten either no fruit or no vegetables in the previous week. On average, meanwhile, children are actually eating less than 13 portions a week.
Children said that their favourite vegetables were carrots and sweetcorn, while strawberries rank as their favourite fruit. Sprouts were the most hated vegetable, and tomatoes and avocados by the far the least favourite fruits.
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information for the CRC, told the BBC: “It is very concerning, however, that so many children are eating so little fruit and vegetables.
“There is growing evidence to suggest a good diet can reduce cancer deaths by up to a third. While cancer is a disease that generally affects older people, it is so important to lay the foundations of a healthy lifestyle early on.
“We need to do all we can to encourage children to be used to eating a balanced diet before they reach adulthood.”
A new scheme to provide free fruit to 80,000 primary school children in over 500 schools has recently been introduced by the government. By 2004, the authorities hope to have extended the scheme with an investment by the New Opportunities Fund.