Why the colour of your fruit and vegetables matters

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Katharine Rooney, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Plant-sourced foods are good for you.
  • Agriculture plays a unique role in food security.
  • A third of all food produced globally is wasted.
  • Better management of food chains can help minimise waste.

Happy International Year of Fruits and Vegetables!

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has designated 2021 as a special year to recognise the health and economic benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption.

The event was established as a way to help promote healthier diets around the world, as well as acknowledging the unique role that agricultural crops play in food security and farmer livelihoods.

Scientists say that access to fresh fruits and vegetables can help protect against non-communicable diseases, like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Collectively, non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. They could cost the global economy $47 trillion by 2030.

Consuming the right amount of fresh fruits and vegetables contributes to healthy growth in children, improved immunity, better mental health, and a longer life.

As the image below shows, the colour of a fruit or vegetable can be indicative of the nutrients it contains and benefits it conveys. Ensuring a mixture of them is key to a healthy diet. Food

What is the World Economic Forum doing to help ensure global food security?

Two billion people in the world currently suffer from malnutrition and according to some estimates, we need 60% more food to feed the global population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of the world’s water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has fallen behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.

Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose Platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

With research, increasing investments in new agriculture technologies and the integration of local and regional initiatives aimed at enhancing food security, the platform is working with over 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.

Learn more about Innovation with a Purpose’s impact and contact us to see how you can get involved.

a chart showing the different health benefits of different coloured fruit and vegetables
The colour of a fruit or vegetable can be indicative of the nutrients it contains and benefits it conveys. Image: FAO

On average, we only eat about two-thirds of the recommended minimum amount of fruits and vegetables. In sub-Saharan Africa, that level drops considerably, with nearly 70% of those aged 50 and over failing to consume sufficient quantities in South Africa and just 5.5% of the same group doing so in Nigeria.

Boosting the supply of nutritious food

But what can be done to intervene?

Making fruit and vegetables more widely available, by improving the value chain between producers and consumers, is a cornerstone of the FAO’s strategy.

That includes encouraging small-scale farmers to join national and global value chains alongside multinational firms. This can be achieved through schemes like contract farming, which gives farmers a guaranteed price for a predetermined level of produce.

The organisation believes that government investment should also prioritise locally produced, indigenous varieties over the exotic and imported, which has led to reduced consumption of seasonal items.

Up to 50% of fruits and vegetables produced in developing countries are lost in the supply chain between harvest and consumption.

In many cases, the value chain from farmers to consumers is complex and multi-layered. Simplifying it could create opportunities for a more direct connection, such as at farmer’s markets, for instance – while strengthening support for smaller retailers could help to improve transparency and food safety.

a chart showing the complicated food chain
A simplified supply chain could make it easier to connect farmers to consumers. Image: FAO

Eliminating waste

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is also intended to support supply chain innovation and a more sustainable food system, including the minimisation of food waste.

According to the FAO, a third of all food produced globally is wasted. One target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to halve per capita food waste by 2030.

Technology is helping to reach that goal.

For example, StixFresh antimicrobial stickers mimic the compounds that soft fruit produces itself; creating a protective layer that slows the ripening process.

Online, sites like Olio connect neighbours and local businesses to donate unwanted food so it doesn’t get thrown away – while in the supermarket, artificial intelligence-driven solutions offer variable pricing matched to expiry dates.

Events are being organised around the world to celebrate the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. The FAO hopes that its work will help more people to gain the nutritional and economic benefits that could improve living conditions for millions.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU and China to do more in common if the global scene gets worse

Click and Download: your app is ready to help you save lives

WHO reports ‘very strong progress’ in battling DR Congo Ebola outbreak

New Eurobarometer survey shows: The majority of Europeans think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality problems

Public Health equality in a trench

10 ways cities are tackling the global affordable housing crisis

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

Long-term EU budget: It is not possible to do more with less, say MEPs

UN chief saddened at news of death of former US President George H.W. Bush

End discrimination against women and children affected by leprosy

Drought in southern Africa: EU releases over €22 million in humanitarian aid

These tech start-ups are changing what it means to farm

Attack on Saudi facilities risks dragging Yemen into ‘regional conflagration’: UN Envoy

Celebrating the Customs Union: the world’s largest trading bloc turns 50

How to outsmart bias when you’re recruiting

Primary Healthcare vs Specialization Careers, how to promote PHC to the Young Health Workforce?

Haitian Foreign Minister calls for development reboot to close ‘striking gap’ between promises and action on ending poverty

This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

European Democracy Action Plan: making EU democracies stronger

Why we need a blockchain bill of rights

Prospect of a nuclear war ‘higher than it has been in generations’, warns UN

Antitrust: Commission imposes binding obligations on Gazprom to enable free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets

How 3 MENA business leaders are building resilient companies post-COVID-19

Thousands of health professionals call on world leaders to prioritize a greener future, post-pandemic

Kenya wants to run entirely on green energy by 2020

COVID vaccination campaign. What are the challenges?

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

1 million citizens try to create a new EU institution

What the next 20 years will mean for jobs – and how to prepare

Statement by Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, on the announcement to postpone the COP26

EU and US take decisive step to end aircraft dispute

How COVID-19 is making companies act for the long term

We need tech solutions that value human interaction more than ever

Grievous violations continue against Myanmar civilians, Human Rights Council hears

The West and Russia accomplished the dismembering and the economic destruction of Ukraine

Guterres lauds UN peacekeeping, highlights need to bridge ‘critical’ gaps

How cities are failing to be inclusive – and what they can do about it

We must stop turning a blind eye to the world’s health crises

London wants to treat violent crime like a disease

Cybersecurity Act: build trust in digital technologies

MasterCard @ MWC14: Innovation in times of regulatory uncertainty

The digital revolution will transform the steel industry

‘Protracted crisis’ in Venezuela leads to ‘alarming escalation of tensions’: UN political chief

From battlefields to boardrooms: 3 steps to building high-morale teams

‘Act now with ambition and urgency’ to tackle the world’s ‘grave climate emergency’, UN chief urges UAE meeting

African cooperation on peace ‘increasingly strong’, Security Council told

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

State aid: Commission approves €790 million Croatian guarantee scheme for companies with export activities affected by coronavirus outbreak

How COVID-19 might help us win the fight against climate change

Civilians suffering due to sanctions must be spared ‘collective punishment’ urges UN rights expert

5 urgent actions in the fightback against ransomware

The UN came of age with the nuclear bomb. Time for it to step up to the AI era

How can we prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 5 lessons from innovative schools around the world

How digital identity can improve lives in a post-COVID-19 world

How we measure stakeholder capitalism will determine our recovery

Commission disburses €14.1 billion under SURE to 12 Member States

How distorted is the EU labour market by this crisis?

UN study projects $32 billion loss for UK post no-deal Brexit

One for all? Are physicians prepared to deliver care to the LGBTQIA+ community?

Trade surplus up production down in Eurozone

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s