Fighting iodine deficiencies in Russia and Ukraine
On October 30-31st, GAIN and UNICEF hosted the CEE-CIS Regional Bread Industry Forum in Lviv, Ukraine. The forum called together Russian and Ukrainian bread producers with public health and control agencies to discuss using iodized salt in mass-produced bread to improve iodine intake.
Presenters shared evidence about iodine deficiency in Russia and Ukraine and its public health consequences, highlighted examples of using iodized salt in bread and resulting decrease in iodine deficiency from other countries, and provided practical information to producers about how they can use iodized salt. Russia and Ukraine have the greatest numbers of people in the CEE-CIS region unprotected from iodine deficiency disorders.
For Russians and Ukrainians, bread is a central part of the diet. Based on the average consumption of bread per day (which is among the highest in Europe), this vehicle could provide about 30% of the population’s daily iodine requirements. While it is legal to use iodized salt in both countries, producers mentioned this involves a complicated and costly administrative process. However, some producers, such as Concern Khlibprom, have already started.
The meeting was a follow up to the 2011 Belgrade Forum, which identified concrete steps to reaching optimal iodine nutrition through strategies focused specifically on using iodized salt in mass staple foods such as bread. Since Belgrade, GAIN and UNICEF have continued to engage with the bread industry in both countries. This meeting focused on applying the principles of corporate social responsibility and use of social marketing to communicate the importance of iodized salt to deliver benefits for both business and consumers. Participants in Lviv voiced their willingness to use iodized salt but had concerns about obtaining permissions and challenges associated with declaring iodine content on labels. Follow up steps include closely working with producers while continuing to engage with policymakers and institutions in order to create a supportive enabling environment to move forward.