A recent nationwide study shows that there is an occurrence of iodine deficiency in 48.2% of children ages 8 to 10. Deficiency in iodine can lead to endemic goitre, hypothyroidism, decreased fertility rate, increased infant mortality, and mental retardation. Due to these worrying results, health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has announced that iodine will now be added to all salt before it can be sold in Malaysia.
What is it?
Firstly, let’s tackle the topic of iodine itself. Iodine is a mineral that is available in some foods. Through iodine, the body is able to make thyroid hormones which control important functions such as metabolism. In addition, the hormones help with proper bone and brain development. This is why it is especially crucial for infants and pregnant women to consume iodine.
So what foods naturally have iodine? Fish such as cod and tuna, seaweed, shrimp, and other seafood tend to be rich in iodine. Other than that, some rely on milk, yoghurt, and cheese as a source. Meanwhile, some people choose to consume iodine supplements to reach their daily target. However, one readily available and common method of consuming it is through iodised salt.
Iodine Will Now Be Added To All Salt
As a result of the recent study, iodine will now be added to all fine salt or salt that weighs 20kg or less. Salt in Malaysia must now be supplemented with iodine before it can hit the shelves. The reasoning behind the choice of salt is because it is a basic ingredient in cooking regardless of income status.
Enforcement of this will begin on the 30th of September. Soon you will only be choosing from iodised salt in the supermarket. Malaysia is not the first country to enforce the addition of iodine to salt. In fact, it is a very common tactic in countries with low intake of iodine.
For example, China, India, and the Philippines have similar acts in place. Meanwhile, Australia requires all bread to use iodised salt. However, there is still concern that it isn’t enough for children and pregnant women.