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HEALTH

Calls grow in France for ‘fruit and veg grants’ as food prices rise

The French Association of Rural families has published a report showing a sharp increase in fruit and vegetable prices from 2019-2021 and is calling for the government to give subsidies to poorer households to allow them to eat nutritious food.

A woman buys bananas in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis.
A woman buys bananas in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis. A new study has suggested that the cost of fruit and veg in France has increased by nearly 10 percent in two years. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

The Association of Rural Families, an organisation that represents some 160,000 families in France and French overseas territories, has released a report that points to big rises in the price of fruit and vegetables. 

By analysing the cost of food items in shops across France, the association found that food prices as a whole had risen by 2 percent from 2019-2021 but that fruit and vegetables had become 9 percent more expensive. 

“The worrying signs for 2022 mean there is a necessity to give out ‘fruit and vegetable cheques’ so that families on modest budgets are not turned away from health foods,” argued the authors of the study. 

Their idea is that the government would subsidise poorer households to buy fruit or veg, in the same way it did to help pay energy bills with the “cheque énergie” in December. 

Economists say that a rise in food prices disproportionately impacts poorer families who tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on food and drink. 

France launched a National Nutrition and Health Plan in 2001.

Besides physical exercise, the government says people should eat fruit and vegetables five times per day and légumes sec (like chickpeas, lentils and beans) at least twice per week. It also recommends eating fish, whole carbohydrates, olive oil and dairy products. 

The Association of Rural Families said that following the government’s recommendations an economically difficult task for many families, costing €450 per month for a family of four (two adults, a teenager and a child) – which is more than a third of a monthly minimum wage (post-tax). For those who want to eat organic food, the cost is closer to €1,148 per month. 

“At that price, organic food is not an option for all budgets,” noted the report. 

The study, which was based on the prices in 148 shops in 37 départements, found that the average cost of identical food products in French overseas territories in French overseas territories such as La Réunion, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and Martinique, was 50 percent higher than in mainland France.  

Conditions like Diabetes and obesity tend to be higher in French overseas territories than on the mainland. Both of these conditions are risk factors when it comes to Covid-19 and other diseases. 

The association says that by investing to make food more affordable for poorer households, it would be possible to “break the development of many pathologies linked to the over-consumption of products that are too fatty, sugary and salty”. 

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HEALTH

First suspected case of monkeypox reported in France

France reported its first suspected case of monkeypox on Thursday, after cases of the virus were reported in several neighbouring countries.

First suspected case of monkeypox reported in France

A first suspected case of monkeypox in France was reported in the Paris area on Thursday, the country’s direction générale de la santé has said, two weeks after a first case of the virus in Europe was discovered in the UK.

Since that first case was reported on May 6th, more than 30 other cases have been confirmed in Spain, Portugal, the UK, Sweden, Canada and the USA.

Here we explain what is known about the viral disease.

Why is it called monkeypox?

The virus was first identified in 1958 in laboratory monkeys – which is where the name comes from – but rodents are now considered the probable main animal host.

It is mainly observed in isolated areas of central and western Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, with the first case in humans reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Why is it in the news?

Monkeypox does not usually spread beyond Western and Central Africa. It is the first time, for example, it has been identified in Spain or Portugal.

It is believed the relaxing of Covid-19 travel rules have allowed the virus to spread further than usual.

The first case in the UK was reported on May 6th, in a patient who had recently travelled to Nigeria. But in the eight cases reported since, several had no connection to each other, and none had recently travelled, prompting experts to believe a number of cases have gone unreported.

Scientists are now working to find out if those cases are linked. 

What are the symptoms?

Initially, the infected patient experiences fever, headache, muscle pain, inflammation of the lymph node, backache and severe fatigue. Then pimples appear, first on the face, then in the palms of the hands and on the soles of the feet. The mucous membranes of the mouth, genitals and cornea may also be affected. 

It has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as similar but less serious than smallpox. In most cases, symptoms disappear in two to three weeks and the patient makes a full recovery.

There are two known strains of the virus: the more severe Congo strain and the West African strain. UK cases reported to date have been the West African strain.

How is it transmitted?

Monkeypox is most often transmitted to humans by infected rodents or primates through direct contact with blood, body fluids, or skin or mucous membrane lesions of these animals. 

Human-to-human transmission occurs primarily through respiratory droplet particles during prolonged contact. But contamination can come from close contact with skin lesions of an infected individual or from objects, such as bedding, recently contaminated with biological fluids or materials from a patient’s lesions.

More severe cases are related to the length of time patients are exposed to the virus, their state of health, and whether the virus leads to other health complications. 

Young children are more sensitive to this virus.

Can it be treated?

There is no specific treatment or preventive vaccine against monkeypox – and the huge majority of patients recover fully with appropriate care.

Smallpox vaccination was effective in the past at also providing protection from monkeypox, but with that disease considered eradicated, people are no longer vaccinated against it, which has allowed monkeypox to spread once again. 

Should we be worried?

Experts have said that we’re not going to see the virus reach epidemic levels.

“There is no evidence that human-to-human transmission alone can maintain monkeypox in the human population,” the WHO has said.

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