FSANZ seeks public input on food fortification

Monday, 28 August, 2006

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is calling for public comment on a proposal for the mandatory fortification of breakfast cereals, breads and biscuits by replacing the salt in these products with iodised salt.

FSANZ chief scientist, Dr Marion Healy said that the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council had asked FSANZ to consider developing a food standard for the mandatory fortification of food with iodine.

This follows the recent re-emergence in adults and children of moderate iodine deficiency in New Zealand and mild deficiency in some parts of Australia.

"New Zealand and parts of Australia have had iodine deficiencies in the past and this was addressed mainly through the use of iodised table salt. However, changes in food supply and possible reduction in the use of added salt in cooking and at the table, consistent with dietary recommendation to eat less salt, are likely reasons for the apparent reduction of iodine in people's diets," Healy said.

"We can obtain iodine in our diet through seafood and kelp, however the iodine content of vegetables, dairy and meat can depend on the natural iodine content of the soil in which the vegetables were grown or where the animal grazed.

"Mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency can reduce cognitive ability, hearing and motor skills. It is particularly important that pregnant women (for their developing baby) and children under three years old receive enough iodine to ensure normal brain development. Damage at this age is not reversible, whereas damage if it occurs in later childhood or adulthood appears at least partially reversible."

The availability of some salt-free breakfast cereals, breads and biscuits will provide non-fortified options for those who want them. Iodine will be listed in the ingredients list if it is present in the food.

Up to 85% of salt intake in our society comes from processed food, so replacing existing salt with iodised salt will not increase overall salt consumption and is an effective way to increase iodine intakes.

Iodised salt will not change the appearance or taste of the cereal, bread or biscuits. The ongoing cost to consumers of fortification will be approximately 17 cents per person in Australia each year and 11 cents per person in New Zealand.

The full draft assessment report for P230 Consideration of Mandatory Fortification of Food with Iodine and a short guide can be found on www.foodstandards.gov.au . Submissions close by 6 pm on Monday 18 September.

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