STRASBOURG, March 8 (Xinhua) -- The European Parliament, meeting Tuesday for its plenary session here, adopted new legislation to ensure 30 million European children will have better diets of milk, fruit and vegetables, as well as education favoring nutritional health.
Members of European Parliament (MEPs) gave their assent to the new legislation that had been provisionally agreed upon by the ministers of the European Union (EU) in December 2015. This will lead to the fusion of formerly diverse European programs for having milk, fruit and vegetables at school, and increase the annual combined budget of 20 million to 250 million euros(22.03 million to 275.42 million U.S. dollars).
Socialist and radical MEPs said in a statement on Tuesday the relaunched program had the double imperative of prioritizing "fresh fruits and vegetables on one hand" and on the other hand, banning the "distribution of processed foods in which sugar, salt, fat, sweeteners or artificial flavors have been added."
The adoption of these measures was possible "despite very active lobbying on the side of the agro-food industry," underlined MEPs.
The new legislation not only urges EU member states to promote healthy dietary habits, but also recommends local food distribution, organic agriculture, and cutting down on waste. It aims to fight obesity and "dynamize all local agriculture and small distribution in prioritizing local and seasonal products."
Under the scheme, schools will be called on to play a central educational role. "Not everything is decided in Brussels, it's up to countries and national authorities to organize these educational measures. Children can visit farms, for example: sometimes they drink milk without really knowing how it is produced. It would be good to be able to create a link between producers and consumers," explained the socialist MEP responsible for the report, Marc Tarabella from Belgium.
Tarabella underlined that, following the Russian embargo, "this program could be useful for farmers," even if "the budget set aside for fruit and milk distribution programs represents only 0.5 percent of the annual budget of the shared agriculture policy."