In Europe, signs and symptoms of what we now recognize as iodine deficiency have been recorded in art and literature for centuries, in regions as varied as Alpine valleys, Dutch and British lowlands, and Scandinavian fjords. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that iodine intakes markedly improved
thanks to the gradual adoption of iodized salt and national programs dedicated to controlling iodine deficiency. But because of a lack of harmonization between national laws and regulations on salt iodization, the control of iodine deficiency in Europe has remained patchy. To address this, stakeholders called for
continent-wide efforts that would leave no country behind, leading to the first ever pan-European project (EUthyroid) to assess the current iodine status in Europe, and help to harmonize iodization programs.
On September 9, 2017, the Iodine Global Network
, and the European Thyroid Association (ETA)
co-hosted a symposium dedicated to iodine nutrition in Europe, as part of the annual ETA meeting, in Belgrade, Serbia. The meeting was hosted by John Lazarus (Cardiff University and IGN Regional Coordinator for Western and Central Europe), and it featured iodine experts from across the continent.
As the EUthyroid project is entering its final stages, we look forward to the release of the most up-to-date European map of iodine status – a starting point to the process of harmonizing IDD prevention and program monitoring across the continent. In Europe, few countries perform regular monitoring, and those that do are using heterogeneous methods and outcomes, which prohibit cross-country comparisons. One of the main tasks of the EUthyroid team has been to develop tools to help researchers and field personnel perform monitoring studies in a standardized manner. EUthyroid has now launched a comprehensive training infrastructure.
In parallel, the EUthyroid scientists are developing analytic models (similar to the modeling performed already in the evaluation of economic cost-effectiveness) that will be affordable to perform across many countries and yet provide high-quality iodine data for governments to act on.
In a trend for Europe including in the UK, Turkey, and the Central and Eastern Europe region, studies show that while school-age children may be iodine sufficient, there is still a risk of insufficient iodine intakes among women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
From an industry perspective, the World Iodine Association and EU Salt have spoken out on the need for multisectoral collaboration in Europe to bring the problem of iodine deficiency to the attention of business stakeholders. Raising awareness, sharing experiences, and stimulating a discussion between businesses and international organizations is very important to ensure long-term sustainability of IDD prevention efforts.