Iodine is an element that is essential for human nutrition. It occurs naturally in soil, from where it is taken up by crops , but in many parts of the world iodine levels in salt are low. This can lead to insufficient inadequate intake of iodine by mothers during pregnancy and by children in the early years can cause brain damage and significantly lower the IQ.
The best amount of iodine depends on life stage. The WHO and UNICEF recommend children age 0-7 years receive 90 micrograms (mcg) a day, children age 7-12 years, 120 mcg, people over 12, 150 mcg; and pregnant and lactating women, 200 mcg.
Salt is seen as the ideal carrier for added iodine as it is consumed by almost everyone; even people in the poorest communities tend to add some salt to food. In some countries, however, public health advice does not reach the poorest communities, or there may be barriers (financial or cultural) to people acting on it.
Sindh, one of the four states that make up the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, had previously prepared a draft law making iodisation of salt mandatory. This has now been finalised and is tabled to be presented before the Sindh Assembly according to Pakistan’s Daily Times.
Addressing a seminar organised by the Micronutrient Initiative, Special Secretary Public Health Dr Suresh Kumar said: “The fact that iodine is vital for normal body growth, physical well being and mental development make it necessary that cost effective interventions are promoted and adopted… “Government would also ensure production of 100 percent iodised salt for edible purposes.”
Aiming to reach all
Pakistan does already have a Universal Salt Iodisation programme in place, which is said to cover 102 districts and benefit 154 million people. It has been working with the Micronutrient Initiative to revitalise this programme and to work with policy makers at local and national levels. The aims to cover the whole country by 2013.
According to MicroNutrient International, issues inhibiting USI are production level constraints, supply problems, weak enforcement of regulations and policy, and inadequate consumer demand.