Packing of iodised salt

Salt bags marked ‘Iodized Salt’ might be misleading as some salt producers in Bagamoyo and Pangani districts in Coast and Tanga regions respectively, seem not to take seriously the need to add the essential ingredient before salt was distributed to consumers.

Despite the global agreement reached at the 1990 World Summit for Children that set the goal of eliminating iodine deficiencies by the year 2000, a recent visit to salt production sites along the coastal area revealed that there was a lack of seriousness in adherence to World Health Organisation (WHO) directives.

The global health body (WHO) recommends that in one’s entire lifetime a person would need less than a teaspoon of iodine to ensure good health. However, the body cannot store iodine, so you have to eat a little bit every day. You only need 150 micrograms (or 20,000th of a teaspoon) to meet your daily requirement.

Iodine is a chemical element that the body needs but cannot make it. The needed iodine must come from the diet. As a rule, there is very little iodine in food, unless it has been added during processing, which is now the case with salt. In 1986 Tanzania launched the National Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control Programme in compliance with WHO directives.

Under the initiative total goitre prevalence nationwide for example decreased drastically from 12 per cent to the current three per cent. Tens of thousands of tons of salt are produced annually to list Tanzania among other major producers of salt in Africa. Production is based on both small and large industrial operations where salt bags are filled by hand.

Sea Salt Company Limited based in Sadani area, Pangani district, in Tanga region is one of the major producers in the country. Here, water is pumped from the sea to fill up large evaporating pools with the size of 30 by 100 metres. During pick season (less rain) each salt pan can produce up to 150 tonnes within two months.

WHO regulations require this salt to have iodine added to overcome iodine deficiency disease (IDD). Among other ill-health conditions include loss of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) among children between 10 and 15 points. Medical experts explain that Iodine deficiency can cause women to stop ovulating, leading to infertility, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid (throat gland) and may increase the risk of getting thyroid (throat) cancer.

Some researchers think that iodine deficiency might also increase the risk of other cancers such as prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer. A Consultant Physician based at Muhimbili National Hospital, Dr Stanley Lyimo, confirmed that Iodine deficiency during pregnancy is serious for both the mother and the baby. It can lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy for the mother and mental retardation for the baby.

By BILHAM KIMATI, Tanzania Daily News



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