Tom Karst, National Editor
Tom Karst, National Editor

In the battle of good versus evil, fruits and vegetables represent the golden halo of food groups.

Fresh produce consumption is the path to a higher moral standard, the self-evident natural law for humans looking for sustenance and a trimmer waistline.

We know in our hearts Little Debbie Swiss Rolls are good, but they aren’t good for us, are they?

We are tempted by french fries and artery-clogging burgers, but we know the path of repentance if we stray, and it begins at the salad bar.

The most spiritual among us may only eat veggies grown in their backyard, but mainstream believers are inclusive in their acceptance of all fresh produce, no matter the orientation of organic or conventional, local or far-flung.

Is there any country where fruits and vegetable are not revered? Is there any country where folks believe that eating pork rinds is more noble than eating broccoli?

I would not want to live in such a place, if there is.

The human aspiration for fresh produce is proof of the existence of a higher intelligence. There is an apple-shaped vacuum in all of our stomachs, one might suggest. So why do we fill it with glazed donuts?

Some eschew the vaunted calling for fruit and vegetable consumption, and they are outliers to the higher wisdom.

In fact, one lawmaker from Kansas, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, recently introduced legislation that will upend the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rule that created the new fruit and vegetable-friendly nutrition standards and will prohibit the USDA’s calorie limit.

But I suppose that even Huelskamp hears an inner voice that convicts him that such a heretical attack on increased fruit and vegetable consumption in schools is grounds for excommunication from a civilized society still struggling to break the shackles of obesity.

In defense of the congressmman, Huelskamp’s office points to the fact that the lawmaker’s “Nutrition Nannies” page on Facebook has attracted more than more than 3,500 likes since mid-September.

Speaking of the (nearly) universal esteem for fresh produce, I was looking at the website for the European Fresh Produce Association the other day, and the news was foreign and yet familiar.

It was as if those folks in Europe were living in a parallel universe to our own. I say this because produce marketers there are also appealing to the same hopes, dreams and aspirations that revolve around the supremacy of fruits and vegetables in the diet.

Much like the Produce for Better Health Foundation may plan a social media outreach to promote fruit and vegetable consumption, the folks in Europe are also hard at it as well.

Freshfel, the European produce association, was taking the next steps in boosting the EnjoyFresh Initiative. Those steps included the launching of a YouTube channel called FreshFel TV.

If the universal good is fruits and vegetables, it is expected that some would try to hijack the message for their own purposes, to water it down and dilute it.

Like the U.S., Europe and the United Kingdom have processed food manufacturers who try to snatch the halo from fruits and vegetables.

The Fresh Produce Consortium of the United Kingdom issued a news release in July that said “the U.K. Government must sort out widespread inaccuracies of 5 A Day claims which abuse consumer trust.”

The consortium, the leading fresh produce trade association in the U.K., said processors were overstepping their bounds. The FPC said the Channel 4 Dispatches program “highlighted many of the ridiculous declarations made by processors and the government’s failure to stop unscrupulous hijacking of the 5 A Day message.”

Particularly, a couple of short documentary newscasts illuminated the high sugar content of fruit drinks.

“It’s time the U.K. government sorted out this confusion. 5 A Day must return to its core principles, based around the convenience of eating fresh fruit and vegetables, to avoid misleading the public about the nutritional content of their food basket,” Nigel Jenney, chief executive officer of the FPC, said in the release.

“The government must do more to encourage people to enjoy the benefits of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables.”

The release went on to say that research by Oxford University stated thousands of lives could be saved every year “if everyone in the U.K. followed dietary guidelines.”

We have heard that before, haven’t we?

Here in the U.S., the Robert Wood Johnson report “F as in Fat” was another reminder of the great costs society bears because of obesity.

Importantly, the report pointed out seven of the 10 states with the highest rates of obesity were also in the bottom 10 for fruit and vegetable consumption.

Can we assume that the 10 states with the highest per capita Double Stuff Oreo consumption were also the most obese?

Even more alarming, researchers found the number of obese Americans could grow from 32% in 2011 to 50% in 2030.

Consumers need to be hit on the head with the fact that they better get serious about eating more fruits and vegetables and eating fewer empty calories.

“More Matters” and “Enjoy Fresh”? Sure, but perhaps a little more hard preaching about the straight-and-narrow way is in order.

The industry’s evangelists must put the fear of the 2030 judgment day into American consumers.

With the obesity time bomb ticking, it’s time to scare us skinny.

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