(Aug. 23) One of the largest Southern Hemisphere produce growing countries is adopting a 5 a Day-like produce consumption program.

The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture on Aug. 23 launched its “5 times a day” program, in part to battle the country’s obesity problems through promoting consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The plan, supported by Chile’s public health ministry, is to use large publicity campaigns to boost consumption from its current per capita daily consumption of 5.8 ounces to 14 ounces, equivalent to five portions and keeping with the United Nations’ World Health Organization goals, according to a Merco Press South Atlantic news agency report.

Tom Tjerandsen, marketing manager for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, Sacramento, Calif., said the Chilean government recognizes the importance of improving the health of its people.

“It’s something that will be moving throughout South America,” he said. “It’s a concept governments recognize and do a great deal to help build fruit and vegetable consumption in the countries. Fruits and vegetables are widely available (there). 5 a Day is practical in this economy.”

Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del., said it isn’t surprising that countries such as Chile have started their own 5 a Day-like programs.

“We’ve seen countries worldwide that have seen this obesity problem and are trying to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption as part of the solution to the problem,” she said.

Nancy Tucker, vice president of global business development for the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., said the Chilean effort ties in with other programs that have been or are being created in other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Columbia, as well as the International Fruit and Vegetable Alliance’s 5 a Day program.

In the Chilean program, the Pan American Health Organization and Chile’s Nutrition and Food Technology Institute formed a non-profit group that will start and run the consumption program.