Law bans import of non-iodized salt in Georgia
Almost half of the children in Georgia face the risk of mental retardation and brain damage caused by iodine deficiency
TBILISI. 3 March, 2005. The Parliament of Georgia has made a major breakthrough in the fight against iodine deficiency, adopting new legislation to outlaw imports of non-iodized salt. The new law: “Prevention of Disorders Caused by Iodine, Micronutrients and Vitamins Deficiency” will come into force in six months.
“The adoption of the law by Georgia is a major step forward towards achieving the global commitment to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders through universal salt iodization by 2005. This is within our reach, if governments lead the way and everyone works together”, says Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UNICEF Representative in Georgia.
The Law will contribute to a National Policy on Food Fortification as well as setting standards for the import and production of iodized salt and other fortified food products. It also aims to strengthen State supervision and inter-agency coordination.
Measures will be put in place over the next six months to ensure that the legislation is effective once it comes into force. These include setting up reliable quality control mechanisms as well as ensuring easy access to iodized salt for the population.
The law is the result of joint efforts by the Government of Georgia and UNICEF. The active involvement of Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs in the fight against iodine deficiency has also led to positive changes.“The commitment of the Government of Georgia in setting up quality monitoring mechanisms is evident and highly appreciated. The fact that the law lays the foundation for other food fortification programmes is also of paramount importance. Within the coming months we will be working with the Government to create a solid base for putting the law into practice”, says Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Iodine deficiency disorders are endemic in Georgia. They are caused by low iodine levels in water and soil and, therefore, in locally produced food products. In 1990, with the onset of the socio-economic crisis in Georgia, the system of iodized salt import and distribution was completely disrupted. The effects were soon apparent. A survey conducted in 1998 showed various degrees of iodine deficiency in 55-58 per cent of the population.
UNICEF has worked on this problem with the Government of Georgia since 1996. Thanks to this partnership, goitre prevalence among children has decreased from 55 to 38 per cent, imports of iodized salt have increased 16-fold, and consumption of iodized salt has increased from 8.1 per cent of families in 1999 to 67 per cent in 2003.
For further information, please contact:
Maya Kurtsikidze, Ass. Communication Officer, UNICEF Georgia