Sometimes you have to despair of Scots and Scotland. A new survey for the UK Food Standards Agency has discovered that 20% of us north of the Border think that jam counts as one of our prescribed five-a-day fruits and vegetables to boost our health.
Being typically Scottish, we forget that jam is roughly 66% sugar and that virtually all of the vitamins and minerals are boiled out of the fruit in the high-temperature jam-boiling process. Then we wonder why Scotland’s teeth are in such a poor state.
The survey might have been a surprise to some, but not to dieticians. I remember chatting with a dietician in Aberdeen about a year after the Government had launched the five-a-day campaign. She said it had done well, but that the questions she and her colleagues had been getting from the public showed that many people still hadn’t fathomed what constituted fruit and vegetables.
Especially on visits to schools, the question sessions were sometimes bizarre. Among the things pupils thought counted as fruit were Juicy Fruit chewing gum, tomato ketchup, pear-drop boiled sweets and, for reasons she could not work out, Coca-Cola. Among the alleged vegetables were potato crisps, bread (on the basis that it is made from wheat), Pot Noodle and toast (see bread).
The dietician’s bottom line was that a fruit or vegetable would qualify as one of the five-a-day if it was unprocessed, unmixed, preferably uncooked and weighed at least four ounces (112g). Thus, consuming one strawberry, one grape, one radish, one pea and one bean did not fulfil the day’s duties. Neither would having a bowl of potato and leek soup count as two of the five-a-day.
Lest you think that school pupils are the only dense ones, the dietician was approached in the staff room after one talk by a teacher who inquired if her fruit tea counted as one of the five-a-day.