The annual toll of diet-related diseases in the United States is similar to that taken by tobacco, but less progress has been achieved in reaching the Public Health Service's Healthy People 2000 objectives for improving food consumption than for reducing tobacco use. In 1988, the California Department of Health Services embarked upon an innovative multi-year social marketing program to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. The 5 a Day--for Better Health! Campaign had several distinctive features, including its simple, positive, behavior-specific message to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day as part of a low-fat, high fiber diet; its use of mass media; its partnership between the state health department and the produce and supermarket industries; and its extensive use of point-of-purchase messages. Over its nearly three years of operation in California, the 5 a Day Campaign appears to have raised public awareness that fruits and vegetables help reduce cancer risk, increased fruit and vegetable consumption in major population segments, and created an ongoing partnership between public health and agribusiness that has allowed extension of the campaign to other population segments, namely children and Latino adults. In 1991 the campaign was adopted as a national initiative by the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation. By 1994, over 700 industry organizations and 48 states, territories, and the District of Columbia were licensed to participate. Preventive medicine practitioners and others involved in health promotion may build upon the 5 a Day Campaign experience in developing and implementing efforts to reach the nation's dietary goals.