Prevention of noncommunicable diseases in Latvia: focus on food product improvement and food reformulation

WHO

On 31 May 2017, WHO conducted a workshop in Riga, Latvia, on strategies to reduce salt and other selected nutrients for food product improvement. It jointly organized the event with the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control of Latvia, the Ministry of Health of Latvia and Riga Stradins University.

The workshop provided a forum for:

  • discussing the need to strengthen efforts to reduce levels of salt in processed foods through targets for food product reformulation;
  • considering possible approaches to reduce the intake of other selected nutrients (for example, sugar) through measures such as product reformulation, reduced portion sizes and consumer-friendly labelling;
  • discussing ways to monitor and evaluate implementation and impact using salt reduction and trans-fat elimination as case studies; and
  • sharing experiences and good practices.

The workshop targeted a number of stakeholders, such as public health experts in the area of nutrition, representatives from the agriculture and industry sectors, and professionals involved in catering and product development.

Healthy foods – policy and practice

Dr João Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, led 2 sessions during the workshop. He focused on the European experience of salt reduction initiatives and new policy directions for sugar reduction and trans-fat elimination. Dr Breda explained what measures to include and what policy approaches to choose, including for determining the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of national action.

Other sessions focused on current practices in food reformulation in Latvia and the role of different stakeholders in improving the composition of food products, notably by eliminating trans fats and reducing salt.

One presentation highlighted the results of a pilot project on eating habits in Latvia. The project focused on reducing consumption of products with high salt and sugar levels. Experts shared their knowledge and experience regarding the resources, processes and skills necessary for achieving effective salt reduction in dairy and meat products.

The final session included a workshop on healthy cooking led by one of the top chefs in the country. This well-known chef provided practical recommendations on how to cook healthy food using locally produced ingredients. To conclude, he shared healthy recipes with the audience who then tasted these delicious meals.

This workshop was conducted within the framework of the biennial collaborative agreement between the Ministry of Health of Latvia and WHO/Europe for 2016–2017. It followed a WHO/Europe technical visit focused on the prevention of noncommunicable diseases jointly organized by the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control of Latvia, the Latvian Ministry of Health and the WHO Country Office.