Recasting the role of fruit and vegetables (F&V) in the diet, and planning national and international campaigns to enhance their consumption are major public health service objectives. The present study seeks to describe F&V availability patterns in ten European countries and examine compliance with current recommendations. The mean and median F&V availability (g/person per d) was estimated based on household budget survey data retrieved from the Data Food Networking (DAFNE) databank. Low F&V consumers were identified based on WHO international recommendations (minimum combined F&V intake of about 400 g/person per d) and current conservative guidelines of a minimum daily intake of three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit. Considerable disparities in F&V availability were found among the surveyed European populations. Only in Mediterranean countries did the mean daily population intake clearly exceed combined F&V recommendations. Dietary patterns were positively skewed in all populations studied, on account of the presence of exceptionally high values among segments of the populations. Moreover, the correlation was unexpectedly weak between the proportion of low fruit and low vegetable consumers (Spearman's correlation coefficient +0·18). More than 50 % of the households in the surveyed populations are likely to consume less than the recommended daily vegetable intake of three portions, and this applies even to the two Mediterranean populations. The efficiency of F&V promoting strategies may be enhanced if F&V are addressed separately; furthermore, interventions that would specifically focus on vegetables are probably needed.