Iodine deficiency in Europe

A continuing public health problem

World Health Organization, UNICEF

Publication details

Editors: Maria Andersson, Bruno de Benoist, Ian Darnton-Hill, François Delange
Number of pages: 70
Publication date: 2007
Languages: English
ISBN: 978 92 4 159396 0



Every European nation endorsed the goal of eliminating iodine deficiency at the World Health Assembly in 1992. Globally, great progress has been made since that time. However, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European Region has been identified as having the lowest coverage of salt iodization of all the regions.

The primary purpose of this document is to review the current extent of iodine deficiency in the European Union (EU) Member States, applicant countries and those in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Its ultimate goal is the mobilization of all European governments to implement and monitor sustainable programmes to control and prevent iodine deficiency in their populations. Part one of the report gives the background, historical context and global strategies.

The second part addresses the main issues related to iodine deficiency: its magnitude, the public health significance, and the health and economic consequences of iodine deficiency, and outlines the current strategies being used to reach the goal of iodine deficiency elimination. In the third part, the focus is on the iodine deficiency situation in 40 of the countries of Europe. The final part highlights the need for sustainable programmes and makes recommendations to help achieve this.

The report concludes that iodine deficiency remains a public health concern in Europe; the health, social and economic consequences of this are well established. Salt iodization remains the recommended strategy for eliminating iodine deficiency. Foremost among the challenges are:

  • to strengthen monitoring and evaluation of national programmes for the prevention and control of iodine deficiency in the countries of an enlarged EU, including the surveillance of the iodine status of national populations;
  • to ensure the sustainable implementation of USI in all countries of the enlarged EU, by harmonizing relevant legislation and regulations;
  • to ensure adequate quality control and quality assurance procedures to strengthen the monitoring of foods fortified with iodine, especially salt iodization, from the producer to the consumer;
  • to increase the awareness of political leaders and public health authorities on the public health and social dimensions of iodine deficiency and the need to implement and sustain programmes for its control;
  • to educate the public on the need to prevent iodine deficiency by consuming iodized salt, and thereby also increase consumer awareness and demand; and
  • to consider alternative iodine supplementation for the most susceptible groups – pregnant women and young infants – where there is insufficient iodized salt and to take into account public health policies to reduce salt consumption.