... but the carrots may taste of prawn cocktail

Cheese-and-onion flavoured cauliflower and prawn-cocktail flavoured carrots are to be marketed to children to try to overcome their aversion to vegetables and help protect them from cancer.

Iceland, the frozen-food retailer announced the new range yesterday after Gordon McVie, director-general of the Cancer Research Campaign, made the suggestion in an interview with the Independent. The CRC has agreed to endorse the products after it published research which showed many mothers have given up the battle of feeding their children vegetables.

Researchers at Strathclyde University found that in many homes Christmas dinner was the only meal when children were fed the recommended amount of vegetables. The report concluded that new approaches were needed to make children more friendly towards vegetables. Forcing them to eat their greens did not work and nor did "cunning" ploys like smothering vegetables in sauce or gravy.

Malcolm Walker, Iceland's chief executive said: "It's technically very easy to flavour frozen vegetables. You can already buy minted frozen peas, for instance, and maybe that's something we should pick up on. While kids might not lead the ideal lifestyle, there could be an argument for saying let's give in to it and make flavoured and fashionable vegetables. Whether it will sell or not, I don't know, but we will have a go."

Another idea was to brand and package vegetables in a more appealing way for children.

The research team interviewed nine groups of working-class women with children aged three to 16.

Children expressed an "arbitrary and despotic" dislike of vegetables, said Professor Hastings. They tended to "graze" rather than sit down to family meals and when set meal times were arranged they could be a stressful battleground. The findings showed that sweetcorn and baked beans are more acceptable to children than other types of vegetables, while soft greens like sprouts and cabbage are especially loathed.

Professor Hastings said health workers and retailers must join forces to alter the "cultural position" of vegetables.

But he accepted that to get children to eat the recommended five portions a day of vegetables and fruit was an "enormous task". Recent research for the Ministry of Agriculture showed that the UK's consumption of vegetables had decreased 30 per cent since 1970, while the trend for frozen food was increasing. Professor McVie said popping vitamin pills into the mouths of children is not the answer.

Leading article, page 13

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