New member states add new nutritional needs for food makers

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Member states, Nutrition

An expanded EU raises new questions for food makers targeting the
prevention of diet-related disease, according to an epidemiologist
speaking at last week's 'Thinking about tomorrow' conference in
Ireland.

Professor Pieter van't Veer from the division of human nutrition and epidemology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands noted that health inequalities between the original 15 member states and the 10 new countries will need to be considered by functional food makers looking to enter new European markets.

Among the top ten diseases in the original 15 member states, cardiovascular disease ranked number one and cancers ranked fourth. Both of these can be influenced considerably by diet.

But the ten new member states have a very different socio-economic and health profile. For example, the life expectancy in the new members tends to be significantly lower while infant mortality, although decreasing, is higher as is the prevalence of stunting.

Meanwhile with regard to chronic disease, the risk of cardiovascular disease in the new member states is just over half that of the original

While the new member states may therefore have lower requirements for heart health products, they are more likely to be affected by nutrient deficiencies such as zinc, vitamin A and iron.

Therefore, in developing a health strategy the new enlarged EU will need to adopt a two-pronged approach, which takes account of the health problems in both regions, argued van't Veer. The first step will be to identify the health inequalities between the two regions by monitoring the food habits and nutrient intakes and relate these to the population's health, he said.

The food industry also needs to take heed of the nutritional requirements of the two regions. While convenience is now driving food markets in the Western countries, optimal nutrition is more important in some of the new states.

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