Background (situation in 2006)
With an estimated 22 million overweight children in the EU25 - of which 5.1 million were considered obese - the increase in child obesity can be described as an epidemic. The figure is rising, with 1.2 million children becoming overweight each year and 300,000 obese. In the context of the reform of the fruit and vegetables sector, the Council asked the Commission to come forward as soon as possible with a proposal for an EU school fruit scheme based on an impact assessment of the benefits, practicability and administrative costs involved.
Eating more fruit and vegetables can play an important role in combating obesity. Fruit and vegetables reduce the "energy density" of the diet and play a protective role, combating heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
An impact assessment was launched by the Commission, under the auspices of an Inter-Service Steering Group drawn from all the relevant Commission services. A key element was an extensive public consultation. The final report of this exercise was presented on 8 July 2008.
The "Second World Health Organisation (WHO) Action Plan for Food and Nutrition Policy [2 MB] " of September 2007 provides an integrated approach to nutrition and linked issues, aiming to maximise the benefits for public health. It also sets goals and targets to reduce the health burden related to food and nutrition, namely obesity in children and adolescents. One of these nutritional goals is a minimum daily intake of 400g of fruit and vegetables.
Consumption of fruits and vegetables across Europe is not sufficient, according to the WHO recommendations, and shows an overall stagnating trend. In 2006, in the context of the reform of the Common Market Organisation (CMO) for Fruit and Vegetables, the Commission services carried out an Impact assessment. The Final report states that "regarding consumption, the proposal to increase the financial contribution of the EU in promotion actions aimed at increasing children's intake of F&V should contribute to a better and more balanced diet and to healthier eating habits.".
On 30 May 2007, the Commission published its White Paper "A Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues", addressing the issue of child obesity in Europe today, its importance for public health and its social and economic impact. In the conclusions, it states that a "School Fruit Scheme would be a step in the right direction". The White Paper is accompanied by an Impact assessment [2 MB] .
On 15 June 2007, again in the context of the reform of the Common Market Organisation (CMO) for Fruit and Vegetables, the Council launched a Declaration stating that "in light of the dramatic increase in obesity amongst school children, which has been highlighted in the recently published Commission White Paper 'A Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues', the Council invites the Commission to come forward with a proposal for a school fruit scheme as soon as possible based on an impact assessment of the benefits, practicability and administrative costs involved".
Work on the Impact assessment was started in September 2007. It was conducted by an Inter-Service Steering Group which comprised all relevant Commission services (including the Directorates-General for Health and Consumer Protection, Environment, Budget, Competition) and was chaired by the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development. It set out to identify possible implementation models and the added-value of EU action. It included an extensive consultation process, comprising expert hearings, an extended Advisory Group, discussions with the Member States and a public consultation. The final report and the proposal was put forward on 8 July 2008.