Eradicate micronutrient deficiencies in the EU
In line with the European Green Deal priorities, the farm to fork strategy for a fair, healthy and environment‑friendly food systems, and the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 and 2050, the successful proposal will support R&I to eradicate micronutrient deficiencies in the EU and Associated Countries. It will contribute to the transformation of food systems to deliver co-benefits for climate (mitigation and adaptation), biodiversity, environmental sustainability and circularity, dietary shift, sustainable healthy nutrition and safe food, food poverty reduction and empowerment of communities, and thriving businesses.
The main objective of this topic is to contribute to the eradication of micronutrient deficiencies and reduction of nutrition inequalities across EU and Associated Countries at different levels (e.g. countries, regions, urban/rural/coastal areas) and for different communities of vulnerable groups such as infants, elderly, pregnant women, people with food intolerances/allergies, people with metabolic disorders on the one hand, and migrants and low income groups on the other hand.
Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following outcomes:
- Improved knowledge of the true prevalence of human micronutrient deficiencies across EU and Associated Countries and development of proposals for optimal interventions to eradicate micronutrient deficiencies in different target groups;
- Improved knowledge and understanding of micronutrient functionality and metabolism during food digestion at different critical periods of life;
- Reduction of nutrition inequalities by providing solutions at a general population level across EU and Associated Countries;
- Eradication of micronutrient deficiencies by providing solutions particularly for the vulnerable population groups in shifting towards healthier diet;
- Better understanding of the health costs resulting from micronutrient deficiency. Scope :
Globally, more than 820 million people have insufficient food intake and many more consume low quality diets that cause 2 billion of people with micronutrient deficiencies and 2 billion of people overweight or obese. Micronutrient deficiencies have a direct impact on individuals and on societies, resulting in poorer health, lower educational attainment and decreased capacity to work and earning potential. The elderly, pregnant woman, children, people with chronic disease and poorer population groups or people socially isolated are particularly at risk. Even if modern food distribution has largely eliminated seasonal gaps in fruits and vegetables, only a limited number of edible crops (2 %) are currently used for the human diet. Therefore, it is still possible that individual diets are not varied enough to ensure adequate dietary quality and prevent micronutrient deficiencies. Climate change and increased atmospheric CO2 can directly alter (micro) nutrient content of crops and livestock products. Processing also alters the nutrient composition of foods (e.g. by removal of the part of the grain that contain beneficial nutrients such as fibre, protein and micronutrients) and, potentially, nutrient bioavailability (e.g. change of structure with treatment with high pressure/temperature). In Europe, studies suggest substantial variability in micronutrient intakes such as vitamins D and E, iron, iodine, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc according to sex and among different population groups and countries.
Micronutrient deficiencies are preventable and the choice of interventions should be based on the root cause, the scope and severity of the micronutrient deficiencies. Proposals for interventions/solutions need to be coherent with national/Associated Countries and EU food and health laws and policies. Where relevant, activities should build on and expand the results of past and ongoing research projects and collaborate with relevant initiatives.
Standardized methods should be used for collecting missing data and/or for updating them using existing data/studies/cohorts to generate better quality data on population micronutrient statuses to plan and target proposals for policy makers to develop intervention programs and propose them mechanisms to monitor their progress.
Proposals are expected to address all of the following R&I activities:
- Develop specific micronutrient biomarkers to facilitate screening of high-risk populations/individuals and to identify the optimal intervention.
- Map and monitor the specific vulnerable groups suffering from micronutrient deficiencies at national/regional/rural/urban/coastal levels for different gender, age, socio-economic and cultural groups in EU and Associated Countries to determine the root cause and the true prevalence of the micronutrient deficiencies, identify their specific needs for optimal health/development.
- Explore the determinants and barriers of micronutrient deficiencies in different geographical zones. Utilize big data and artificial intelligence to elucidate the complex links between micronutrients, diets, health and development of diseases.
- Further study the functionality, bioavailability, risk/benefits of the micronutrients during critical periods of life. Understand the specific mechanism of food digestion (e.g. the effect of the matrix, role of the gut microbiome, interaction with other ingredients/nutrients) to enable to advise for optimal combinations of foods to maximise bioavailability, or to incorporate, where appropriate, micronutrients in food products in order to be taken efficiently.
- For the vulnerable groups, develop innovative solutions/strategies/programme, through an integrated food-based approach instead of food supplementation and fortification (e.g. fresh and diversified food naturally rich in (micro)nutrients of concern which are under-consumed including old/neglected fruit and vegetable crops) for different geographical zones and for different communities and evaluate their effective impact on micronutrients deficiencies.
- Develop innovative and effective tools to improve education, communication and training on healthy nutrition and diets in order to avoid micronutrient deficiencies which are adapted to various socio-economic groups of the populations in respect of cultures, ages, gender, needs at different level (e.g. public authorities, health care providers, education systems). These tools should be available to policy makers, responsible national authorities to support their efforts for health promotion, disease prevention and care.
- Provide recommendations, guidelines and cases studies underpinned by scientific evidence that are coherent with relevant national and EU food law and policy and that could be used by policy makers to design coherent, safe and sustainable micronutrient deficiency programmes. Provide evidence in the form of a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed measures and the costs of not acting.
Proposals must implement the 'multi-actor approach' and ensure adequate involvement of academia, research-technology organizations, food businesses and other relevant actors of the value chain and take into account sex and gender analysis. Relevant advice of European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has to be taken into account.
- Admissibility conditions: described in Annex A and Annex E of the Horizon Europe Work Programme General Annexes
Proposal page limits and layout: described in Part B of the Application Form available in the Submission System
- Eligible countries: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes
A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon Europe projects. See the information in the Horizon Europe Programme Guide .
- Other eligibility conditions: described in Annex B of the Work Programme General Annexes
The following additional eligibility criteria apply: the proposals must apply the multi-actor approach. See definition of the multi-actor approach in the introduction to this work programme part.
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium selected for funding.
Financial and operational capacity and exclusion: described in Annex C of the Work Programme General Annexes
Evaluation and award:
Award criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex D of the Work Programme General Annexes
Indicative timeline for evaluation and grant agreement: described in Annex F of the Work Programme General Annexes
- Legal and financial set-up of the grants: described in Annex G of the Work Programme General Annexes
- Specific conditions: described in the specific topic of the Work Programme
Standard application form — call-specific application form is available in the Submission System
Standard evaluation form — will be used with the necessary adaptations