Half-portions of fruit and veg that are hidden in ready meals and other 'composite' food will count towards your five-a-day under a novel new industry scheme announced last week.

The new voluntary code, launched by the IGD on behalf of 30 leading retailers and suppliers, will promote the nutritional merits of thousands of ready meals and other processed foods that contain at least half a portion of fruit and veg so long as they adhere to the scheme's classification of a healthy product.

Using the Department of Health's traffic light system, the code says products that qualify for a green or amber light for sugar, fat and salt should be free to make health claims meaning food and drink could be flagged up but still have saturated fat levels of 30% and 15% of GDA respectively. And foods providing less than 40% of GDA salt content, or drinks providing less than 20%, would also qualify.

The scheme aims to make it easier for people to hit the five-a-day target, while also ensuring that claims were more responsibly made, said IGD chief ­executive Joanne Denny-Finch.

"Composite foods are an important source of fruit and vegetables in the diet. Labelling the number of portions in composite foods helps consumers increase their five-a-day intake and will encourage food businesses to add more fruit and veg to their [composite] products."

Vanessa Hattersley, a scientist for smoothie maker Innocent one of several nutritionists involved in drawing up the guide said the decision to launch a new half a portion measure had been taken to ensure the widest possible take-up of the system.

"We hope it will answer scepticism from the health lobby that these claims are being made willy-nilly and allow consumers to have confidence the information hasn't just been plucked out of the air."

But, while backing the initiative, she said Innocent would not develop products of its own with less than one whole portion. "We kept coming back to the main aim which is to get as much fruit and veg down people as possible. If products can't get to a full portion, half a portion might be more attainable for some of them."

The initiative couldn't be better timed, with statistics out last week showing over 70% of adults and even more children are failing to eat enough fruit and veg.

The industry is now waiting with bated breath to see what the government makes of its plans. Last week The Grocer revealed health secretary Andrew Lansley refused to sign up to a fruit and veg pledge offered by leading supermarkets, which would have committed them to increase the proportion of products containing fruit and veg.