By Bob Condor

If herbal medicine research were to be a stock car race rather than a scientific endeavor, then Europe would have lapped the U.S. a time or three over the last couple of decades. European countries, especially Germany, have been leaders in standardizing herbal remedies, making them available to the general public and rating their effectiveness.

Eco-activists would say the same about Europe’s inclination to go green. Sustainable construction and clean-air initiatives have been de rigueur on that side of the Atlantic long before America decided that global warming was real and not a mirage. The U.S. green movement? We were lapped practically before we started.

Now you can say Europe has taken a big lead on school lunches. While some states, cities and school districts look to find ways to buy from local growers, the European Union is maneuvering to remove all vending machines with sugary or salty snacks from all schools. It is large-scale effort with the backing of individual countries.

To replace those vending snacks—and the revenue that comes with them—an EU internal commission will establish and subsidize machines offering fresh fruit and veggies. Fruit juices will be limited by offering small-serving containers.

The EU internal commission report will be made public July 8. But news of the plan, which includes financing handouts of fresh produce in all schools, has happily leaked among European

parents and public health officials worried about a huge spike in obesity rates for kids and adults on the continent. It is estimated that more than a quarter of all men and close to 40 percent of women are classified as obese.

What’s more, only eight of the European Union’s 27 countries meet the minimum servings-per-day standard for fruits and veggies as offered by the World Health Organization. It’s one reason why the EU has tagged about $80 million for a program to make sure all schools have fresh produce in vending machines.

Greece is the EU country with the highest daily intake of fruit and vegetables, followed by Portugal, Spain, Italy and Denmark.

The EU commission’s official report is expected to deride all sugary and salty snacks as “competing foods” that if banished won’t be missed as much as people believe. Lose the chips, gain the fresh fruit, convince the kids, change the world.

Or at least the continent.

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors' Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”