The government's 5-a-day campaign to get people to eat more fruit and vegetables has failed, according to a report out this week.

Most Britons are still not heeding advice to improve their diets to help combat major lifestyle diseases such as cancer, the research by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit has found.

Refusal to eat more fruit and veg is being blamed for 42,200 premature deaths a year, at a cost of £6bn to the NHS for treatment.

"People haven't taken the 5-a-day message on board," said Professor Peter Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation.

However, the report added that 44% of schoolchildren now ate their daily quota of fruit and veg, up from 27% in 2004.

Health experts have demanded a radical overhaul of government policy. "It's time to impose VAT on unhealthy foods and use the money to cut the cost of fruit, veg, bread and pasta," said Professor Mike Rayner of Oxford University.