Media release

Health Ministers in Riga agree on the need for common EU nutrition and alcohol policies

Latvian Minister for Health Guntis Belēvičs. Photo: EU2015.LV
21 April 2015

On 20-21 April the informal meeting of Health Ministers and Heads of Delegation from the European Union, European Economic Area and European Union candidate countries took place in Riga to discuss factors affecting public health.

The Health Ministers and Heads of Delegation discussed the need for a new policy framework for reducing alcohol-related harm, and the EU’s role in the creation of a general alcohol standard for the international market and in the harmonisation of national policies.

Latvian Health Minister Guntis Belēvičs stressed: ”Healthcare issues in the European Union are certainly a national competence. At the same time, it is our duty and challenge to jointly strengthen and harmonise key factors affecting public health. Better health and quality of life is the common goal to be achieved by European countries, which can set an example for the rest of the world.”

The Health Ministers confirmed that the five EU Alcohol Strategy priorities — pricing and tax measures, marketing and restrictions on the availability of alcoholic beverages, legal measures to reduce drink driving, and the raising of public awareness — are still very important. In order to achieve the objectives set out in the global plan to reduce non-infectious diseases on cutting alcohol-related harm by 10%, it is important to continue to work together.

The Health Ministers also discussed the nutrition policy and the need for a common framework to limit the number of trans-fatty acids and to reduce the amount of sugar in foodstuffs. In relation to food additives, a topical subject was the need for additional research into the interaction between food additives and the human body and an assessment of the combined risk impact on human health.

The EU's nutrition and food policies should be designed to protect public health and promote healthy eating on a daily basis. The responsible authorities and institutions should continue to pay more attention to, and work on, ensuring the availability of healthy and safe food that contributes to human development, especially in children.

Due to the recent tragic events concerning refugees in the Mediterranean, the problem of migration was also raised. The Ministers agreed that a common solution needs to be found on this issue by addressing its causes and taking its health aspects into account.

Oskars Šneiders
Expert in communication