Current government advice on nutrition classes potatoes as a 'starchy' food but not as a vegetable that counts towards five-a-day.
However, a new, wide-ranging survey into consumer attitudes towards food, published by the FSA last week, found 65% of consumers thought a jacket potato counted towards their five recommended portions of fruit and veg. Only 53% believed baked beans counted towards five-a-day and 60% thought pulses did (both do count).
The survey, which was commissioned by the FSA before its nutritional powers were transferred to DH last autumn, also found a significant number of consumers incorrectly thought rice (24%) and jam (17%) counted towards five-a-day.
Potato suppliers, which have long lobbied for potatoes to be recognised as a vegetable on the government's Eat Well plate, said it was time for advice on potatoes to change.
There has long been nutritional evidence to suggest fresh potatoes should be counted as vegetables. A member of the tuber family, the potato contains as much vitamin C as an apple, and is also high in potassium, iron and folic acid.
But the government had been reluctant to include them in five-a-day over fears they would encourage consumers to eat more chips, said Gillian Kynoch of the Fresh Potato Suppliers Association. "That's why we've always been clear that we're talking about fresh potatoes, not frozen or processed."
If potatoes were recognised under five-a-day, it would give suppliers a potentially important marketing boost at a time when potatoes are struggling against pasta and rice.
The Fresh Potato Suppliers Association is now working on putting together a roundtable with representatives from DH, nutritionists and sustainability experts.