China will change its requirement that all salt nationwide be iodized and instead set different standards for different regions, The Beijing News reported Thursday.
Zhang Wanqi, a nutrition expert at Tianjin Medical University, told Sixth Tone that while China’s booming logistics industry and advances in quality-of-life standards have to some extent bridged the gap between coastal and inland diets, iodine intake still varies widely across the country due to dietary habits, water iodine levels, and each individual’s physical needs.
The new regulation would allow iodine-sufficient provinces to sell noniodized salt and encourage provincial governments to set concentration standards for iodized salt that take local factors such as drinking water and a seafood-heavy diets into consideration. The regulation also proposes that local governments publicize where residents can buy noniodized salt.
According to Zhang, the government should be deliberate in setting the new standards. “The policymakers should set [iodine concentrations] by taking geographical and physiological differences into account,” he said, adding that online surveys or apps could be used to assess iodine intake and then provide a customized range users could then choose to follow.
Zhang also suggested targeting specific demographics: Pregnant women, for example, need more iodine to keep their babies healthy. Apart from iodized salt, they can get the iodine they need through dietary supplements — which are not yet a common option in China, especially in rural areas.