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Saturday, November 30, 2013

The SEE Health Network is launching an impotant initiative for reducing excessive salt intake: Summary of the EC TAIEX Regional Workshop

On 25-26 November 2013 a Regional Workshop on Preventive Actions for Reducing the Excessive Salt Intake was organized by the European Commission TAIEX Instrument in Podgorica, Montenegro under the Presidency of Professor Miodrag Radunovic, Minister of Health of Montenegro.

The event was attended by experts from several European Union countries - Croatia, Latvia,  Romania and Slovenia. Over 50 participants from the countries members of the SEE Health Network attended and participated in an intensive experience exchange, learning and defining the future concerted actions of a new SEE Health Network to prevent and control noncommunicable diseases.

The Workshop reviewed in depth the WHO Recommendations and the EU Documents which stress the importance of the negative serious effects on health of excessive salt intake and the rationale used in setting limits for the daily intake of salt (sodium chloride.

The presentations by experts from the EU Member States and participants from the countries of the SEEHN showed the large variety of approaches used to tackle the problem, both from the political (administrative) and practical points of view. However in essentially all cases the Ministries of Health and Agriculture are the main actors with the food industry and very often consumer organizations.
Concern was expressed at the meeting of the relatively low level of impact of public health views, both at the EU level and in the countries of the SEEHN into the labeling approaches (food claims) as compared with other actors, taking into account the concept of Health in All Policies.

Based on the above the issue of a common approach to labeling of salt (focus on NaCl) in foods is urgent for the countries of the SEEHN  in view of the obligation of the EU Member States to implement at national level labeling in conformity the respective EU Directive. A good understanding of approaches used in the EU and eventual difficulties encountered would be of considerable help to the countries of the SEEHN. The SEEHN is requested to undertake appropriate steps, including at the political level, to speed up this understanding and thus help the harmonization of of a specific TAIEX labeling in the SEEHN countries with the measures taken by the EU Member States, including possibly through the organization of a specific TAIEX workshop.
Salt (NaCl) intake. Full agreement as to the requirement to have more data, possibly harmonized, on their daily intake of NaCl by the population of the Region (including at national and sub-national levels to help develop relevant measures to tackle the problem of excessive NaCl intake, at their appropriate level.

Close cooperation with media to promote discussion  and knowledge of this issue to the population at large, and at the community level, and working at the same time at promoting this knowledge in schools – this is of foremost importance (cooperation between public health and the educators.

Sampling methodology at Regional level for comparison purposes would be beneficial, using, if possible, the approach used at the EU level.
Human resources in each country to collect and assess data are scares. Cooperation in the Region is essential as is the cooperation with the EU countries.

On the basis of the above the following DRAFT DECISION is proposed a draft Decision to be submitted to the 32nd Plenary Meeting of the SEE Health Network, Pogorica, 27-28 November for endorsement.