On October 25th, 2016, the FENS Board met with representatives from South-Eastern European Countries to discuss the status and potential developments of dietary recommendations and guidelines in this region. South-East Europe includes countries such as Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Bulgaria. Except Albania, these countries were all represented at the workshop.
The workshop was organized with the intention to establish a nucleus of scientists from nutrition and public health that work conceptually and practically at improving and aligning such guidelines in this region. FENS members with experience in this area can help to initiate and support intellectually as well as financially this process. There is a high potential for capacity building in this area which could best be addressed by collaboration among the local stakeholders and input from those who already went through phases of establishing such guidelines. The agenda of the workshop was prepared by Sladjana Sobajic, FENS Board member and professor at the Belgrade University, with support of PhD Dragana Jovic from the Serbian Public Health Institute.
The workshop started with two presentations, one by Mikael Fogelholm and one by Ian Macdonald, both member of the FENS board. They shared their experiences and views in establishing recommendations and food-based dietary guidelines with the participants of the workshop. Subsequently, representatives from various FENS countries presented their work and reported about the actual status within their countries. The afternoon was devoted to representatives from the South-Eastern countries to present actual initiatives and plans for the future. It was clearly acknowledged by the workshop participants that in nearly all countries some activities are taking place.
The following conclusions were drawn before the workshop ended: (1) Romania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia have already fully-developed national food based dietary guidelines that have been implemented from 2005 in Romania and Bulgaria, and from 2014 in Macedonia; (2) The Belgium food-based dietary guidelines, currently under development, could be a good show case for the South-Eastern countries in terms of future guides; (3) for those countries which are candidates to become a member of the European Union, a common initiative might be worthwhile to ask for expertise and funds for meetings and capacity building within the region; (4) some SEE countries adopted the EU policy to reformulate foods according to less salt, sugar and saturated fat such as Slovenia and Croatia; and (5) there are dietary recommendations in Serbia and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegowina for infant and small children, and for pre-school facilities.
As major problems for SEE countries in the process of developing dietary recommendations or food based dietary guidelines the workshop participants pointed out: a) the lack of relevant national data on nutrition quality, dietary habits, and nutrient intake; b) the lack of financial support; c) need for developing the set of tools that can be used in the region for food- based dietary guidelines; and d) training of experts for using these tools.
It was the common conviction that the countries of South Eastern Europe share similar backgrounds in scientific infrastructures and culinary practices and that collaboration could enhance the process of capacity building for a high standard in the transfer of nutritional knowledge about nutrient demands and food-disease relationships into practical guides.
Here you can see a photo taken at the Meeting (Photo)