School milk and fruit: MEPs back measures to teach healthier eating habits
Healthy eating habits start young, so the EU and its member states should do and spend more to encourage kids to eat healthy and local foods, Parliament said on Wednesday. To ensure that they get healthy eating lessons, as well as school milk, fruit, and vegetables from EU schemes, Parliament amended draft rules and approved a mandate for MEPs to negotiate their final form with EU member states.
"A healthy and balanced diet is the foundation of good health. Yet consumption of fruit, vegetables and milk has been declining across the EU, with many negative consequences for Europeans. The new rules aim to ensure that more is done in our schools, not only to give our children healthy foodstuffs, but to educate them better about healthy eating habits", said Marc Tarabella (S&D, BE), who is steering the legislation through Parliament.
More lessons, more choice, fairer funding
Parliament endorsed plans to merge today’s separate school milk and fruit schemes and extend educational measures.
MEPs also amended the draft rules to:
- add milk products with proven beneficial effects for children's health, such as cheese, curd and yoghurt to the list of foodstuffs eligible for EU funding (provided they are not flavoured and do not contain added fruits, nuts or cocoa), with priority to go to local and regional products,
- require EU member states to earmark 10% - 20% of the EU funding for educational activities, e.g. to promote healthy eating habits and fight food waste, including farm visits and occasional distribution of local specialities such as processed fruit and vegetables (unless they contain added sugar, fat, salt, sweeteners or artificial flavour enhancers), honey, olives or dried fruits,
- allocate an additional €20 million a year for milk measures bringing annual funding for milk and milk products up to €100 million, with €150 million for fruit and vegetables, and
- distribute EU funds more fairly among EU member states, by setting two core criteria for the entire scheme (share of six to ten-year-old children in the population and degree of development of the region within the member state). Past levels of milk-scheme funds will be taken into account for the first six years of the scheme and would be balanced with a new, minimum annual amount of EU aid per child.
Parliament approved the amendments to the draft regulation and the mandate for negotiations with EU ministers by 458 votes to 97, with 28 abstentions. Once the Council of Ministers approves its negotiating position, Parliament, the Council and the European Commission should start talks on the final shape of new legislation.
Note to editors
The school milk scheme was set up in 1977. The school fruit scheme, which includes a provision for education, was introduced in 2009. Both schemes were set up to promote the consumption of fruit, vegetables and milk and milk products but they have so far operated under different legal and financial arrangements. All 28 EU member states participate in the school milk scheme and 25 in the school fruit scheme (all except the UK, Finland and Sweden).
Consumption of fruit, vegetables and milk is still falling across Europe. Over 20 million EU children are overweight and adolescents on average eat only 30% to 50% of the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables.