The critical role of the salt industry in achieving optimal iodine nutrition worldwide
IGN highlights from the World Salt Symposium 2018
by Jonathan Gorstein
Universal Salt Iodization now reaches 86% of the population in low and middle income countries
, protecting millions of newborns from preventable brain damage – and is considered one of the most successful public health achievements in the past fifty years. And this could not have happened without our partners in the salt industry.
At the Iodine Global Network, we know the power of partnerships and working closely with others – it is our modus operandi
as we lead the global fight against iodine deficiency.
This year’s World Salt Symposium
took place in Park City, Utah, June 19-21st and brought together salt producers from more than 30 countries. It was a unique opportunity to discuss the importance of iodine, provide an update on global progress of salt iodization programs, and reflect on the tremendous contribution made by the salt industry.
At the WSS, we hosted two special sessions on iodine nutrition bringing together salt industry representatives from around the world, development partners including GAIN, UNICEF, and Nutrition International, among others. Over the course of the ensuing conversations, I was heartened to celebrate the progress achieved and have the salt industry appreciate their role. The key takeaways:
Global elimination of iodine deficiency disorders is an immense success story of public-private interface.
Salt fortification has been astonishingly successful and sustainable. This in large part because salt is inexpensive and widely consumed throughout the world, with limited variation across population groups. Within that context, the implementation of salt iodization programs has adapted to the particular conditions of individuals countries and the dynamics of various salt industry characteristics. At the symposium we heard national success stories from China, Pakistan, Mozambique, Tanzania, Cambodia, and India – among others.
Partnership is the first step.
Whether working at the global, regional, or country level, salt industry experts conveyed that building relationships and associations is the first step to delivering population iodine nutrition through salt as a vehicle.
Sodium reduction is complementary.
Importantly, we heard from our colleagues in sodium reduction. We heard about the effect of salt on cardiovascular health and blood pressure. It is such a critical time to communicate that the interventions of sodium reduction and iodized salt are complementary. We’ll continue to work with WHO and others to synergize salt iodization with salt reduction.
Messaging is critical.
It’s more important than ever that we communicate effectively to consumers as well as stakeholders. Iodized salt is safe, effective and affordable, and iodine nutrition is an investment for the next generation. USI and salt reduction can be pursued in parallel to meet complementary public health aspirations. In order to sustain the progress we’ve made, it’s critical that we craft and convey messages effectively.
Use of iodized salt in processed foods and condiments is an opportunity.
With our partners we are recognizing that the use of iodized salt in processed foods and condiments is not only an opportunity but a necessity to sustain optimal population iodine nutrition. Mandating and enforcing the use of iodized salt in these products is an integral component of true Universal Salt Iodization, and we were able to solicit input from the salt industry how to pursue this program objective.
Recent efforts toward salt industry consolidation support USI.
In many countries, small, diverse salt producers pose a challenge to the delivery of consistently iodized, high-quality salt. Several countries, including Tanzania, have embarked on efforts to transform their salt industry
to address this barrier, and few stakeholders are better poised to provide guidance on how such models can be developed and made most effective.
Potential for salt to be used as a vehicle for other nutrients.
Because of the immense success of salt iodization, salt is now being explored as a fortification vehicle to address anemia. In India, double fortified salt (DFS) – containing iodine and iron – is now being delivered to 66 million beneficiaries through the public distribution system. IGN discussed its current effort to convene partners to discuss DFS and the conditions which need to be in place to ensure its successful deployment.
Program barriers and enablers.
Our partners from GAIN led the conversation regarding regulatory monitoring and potassium iodate supply. Data is one such barrier, and I shared information about the Global Fortification Data Exchange
, a breakthrough data partnership between IGN, the Food Fortification Initiative, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, and Micronutrient Forum, that has significant application for program implementation.
As the landscape matures across all of these areas, it is clear that we need to continue to break out of our silos and to strengthen intersectional partnerships. We continue to provide a platform for all partners to contribute towards the global achievement of optimal iodine nutrition.
You can view the full agenda of the 2018 World Salt Symposium here and watch the videos of the IGN-sponsored technical sessions on Iodine and Health Outcomes:Session 1 videoSession 2 video
About the author
Executive Director of the IGN since April 2015, Jonathan Gorstein has been working to support the design and implementation of large-scale nutrition programs, including USI, in developing countries for over 25 years. He is currently a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington, Seattle.