The majority of New Zealand children appear to be getting enough iodine to sustain good health since bakers switched to using iodised salt in most breads, according to a recent Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) report.
“The percentage of children estimated to have inadequate iodine intakes has dropped from 38 per cent to four per cent because of iodine fortification,” MAF food science and risk assessment manager Jenny Reid says.
“This is a tremendous improvement and the survey results indicate that we are achieving our goal of ensuring that more than 70 per cent of school-aged children reach the ideal iodine intakes.”
New regulations were introduced in September 2009 making it mandatory to replace non-iodised salt with iodised salt in all breads except organic and unleavened breads in a bid to address New Zealand’s problem of mild-moderate iodine deficiency.
New Zealand-grown fruit and vegetables are naturally low in iodine because our soil doesn’t contain much of the nutrient. Milk has in the past been a significant source of iodine in our diet because sanitisers containing iodine were used to clean the milking equipment and some of this iodine leached into the milk. As use of these sanitisers has declined, so has iodine intake.
Iodine deficiency causes health problems such as poor growth and development in children as well as thyroid diseases in the general population. Because iodine is essential for brain development, it is particularly important that unborn babies, infants and young children have enough.
According to the World Health Organization, iodine deficiency is the world’s greatest single cause of preventable brain damage and mental impairment.
A total of 530 breads for sale in New Zealand were analysed for their iodine levels. This information was used to estimate iodine intakes of children based on the latest New Zealand dietary intake and food composition data.
“It’s encouraging that regardless of whether or not discretionary iodised salt was included in the analysis, less than one percent of children would be likely to consume more iodine than what’s recommended,” Ms Reid says.