A FRUIT cocktail aimed at getting children to switch from burgers to bananas was served up in a tropical rain forest - in Salford.

Two hundred pupils from St Patrick's RC High in Eccles tasted the healthy food as part of a national initiative.

Salford Education Authority launched the scheme, which will encourage healthy eating nationwide.

In the biggest government health initiative since the introduction of free school milk, it is hoped that free fruit will be available to children aged four to six in 23,000 schools by 2003.

Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day could help prevent illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and asthma.

In an inspired move, Salford has created a global tour of fruit and vegetables in a greenhouse in Buile Hill Park.

Orange, lemon, and lime trees, plus pineapple and pomegranate plants fill the ''forest'' and pupils were given the chance to taste a range of exotic fruits.

Pupils also met Miss Chiquita, the mascot of a leading firm of banana importers.

Tony Bilsborough, national co-ordinator of the scheme, said: ''We believe this is the best way to get the message across of the value of eating fresh produce.''

Many more children in the United States are being diagnosed with high cholesterol, or as overweight or obese. These conditions can cause many health problems for your child such as diabetes and high blood pressure, both now and as he or she moves into adulthood.

By helping your child eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, you can reduce his or her risk of experiencing these health problems.