Your salt now packed with iodine
Pioneer News Service/ New Delhi
The humble cooking salt will now be fortified with not just iodine, but also iron to nourish a nation of anemic women and children. Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition will soon commercialise double-fortified salt, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said.
Fortifying salt is the health minister's way of ensuring 'nutrition' equity for the masses. The minister is probably grappling with the irony that in cities, even fruit juices come fortified with vitamins. While in rural hinterlands, children have diminished intellectual capacity for want of a pinch of iodine. The government also reinstated the ban on sale of non-iodised salt that was lifted in 2000.
In their whole lifetime, a person may require only a teaspoon of iodine. But its deficiency can cause serious damage to the brain of foetus and growing children, like goitre, thyroid deficiency, retarded physical development and impaired mental function. Iodine deficiency is the single most common cause of mental handicap and is totally preventable. Other studies have shown that school children living in iodine deficient environment have 13 IQ points less than those living in iodine sufficient environment.
Mr Ramadoss acknowledged that lifting the ban was a mistake. "Lifting the ban (on sale of non-iodised salt) has had a serious health effect. Of the 360 districts surveyed, 254 reported iodine deficiency in children," he said. The Government has set a target of reducing iodine deficiency disorder to less than 10 per cent by 2010," he said.
Former Health Minister CP Thakur had lifted the ban in September 2000 citing that "matters of public health should be left to the informed choice, and not enforced through compulsion."
Other factors that weighed the argument in favour of lifting the ban was that it increased the price of salt and was seen to be helping sales of a few private players. But the perception is misleading; one, it costs a mere 10 paise per person per year to iodise salt. Two, the domestic consumption of salt has risen from three lakh tonne in 1984 to 45 lakh tonne in 2004.
After the ban was lifted, all states saw a drop in consumption of non-iodised salt. Although most of the States had retained the ban after Centre's withdrawal, the sale of non-iodised salt increased in states like Gujarat, which produces the bulk of salt, Arunachal and Kerala.