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NZFSA to consider iodine fortification plans

NZFSA to consider iodine fortification plans

Concerns about iodine levels in our diet are prompting health and nutrition experts to consider some new options for fortification in an effort to curb rising rates of iodine deficiency disorders.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is seeking an appropriate way to increase iodine in the New Zealand and Australian food supply and is to issue a discussion paper this week which will seek public submissions on how this can best be done.

Jenny Reid, Assistant Director in the New Zealand Food Safety Authority's Food Standards Group says: "NZFSA looks forward to receiving a copy of the report and will be making a submission once we've read and considered the options."

Low levels of iodine in New Zealand soils mean that the Kiwi diet is naturally lacking in the nutrient which is essential for the cognitive and intellectual development of unborn babies, infants and children. Iodine deficiency can also cause goitre (enlargement of the thyroid gland) among adults.

Iodine fortification of table salt was initially introduced in New Zealand in the 1920s and 1930s. But changing dietary trends and industry work practices have seen iodine levels in the New Zealand diet decline again and health experts are worried about the long-term effect on future generations.

Iodised salt on the family dining table is far less commonplace now than it was even 25 years ago and a portion of the dietary intake of iodine used to be delivered through dairy foods via the widespread use of iodine-containing sanitisers on dairy farms.

"Nowadays we are eating more commercially prepared foods, which are made with non-iodised salt and we have cut back on our salt intake generally," says Ms Reid. "Iodine-containing santisers are no longer used by the dairy industry so the iodine content of dairy products has also declined. The concern is a nationwide one – iodine deficiency is a population issue."

Dietary sources of iodine include seafood (fish, shellfish and seaweed) iodised salt, seameal custard, milk and eggs. However, as New Zealand soils are naturally lacking in iodine it is difficult for consumers to obtain adequate amounts from the food supply, no matter how varied and balanced their diet.

Submissions on the FSANZ discussion paper will close on 15 September 2006. A full assessment report for P230 Consideration of Mandatory Fortification of Food with Iodine, together with a short guide, will be available from 18 August 2006 at: www.foodstandards.gov.au. A factsheet on iodine and fortification is also available from the NZFSA website: www.nzfsa.govt.nz/processed-food-retail-sale/fact-sheets/iodinelongqas.htm

ENDS

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