Healthy Start supports low-income and disadvantaged pregnant women and families, with fixed value vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables, milk or infant formula milk. It held back from offering vouchers on frozen fruit and veg, fearing they could be misused and spent on products containing added fat, salt and sugar such as oven chips or battered onion rings.
However, in a formal industry consultation, 90% of respondents backed proposals to extend the scheme to allow vouchers to be spent on products such as plain frozen peas, carrots and beans starting 6 April.
The FDF said the extension would enhance choice, convenience and flexibility. "Families will benefit nutritionally from freezing methods and low food waste due to the longer shelf life of frozen foods," said food safety and science director Barbara Gallani.
Dairy UK figures warned dairy businesses could lose up to 5%, but more likely 2% to 3% of voucher sales, from the changes because customers could choose to spend vouchers with retailers selling both frozen produce and milk. However, this only represented an average of £41 in lost sales per business so was not deemed a sufficient barrier to broadening the scheme.