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New 20 country study on iodine nutrition advocates mandatory salt iodization

© UNICEF Serbia 2011
Mr. Kaprov, Ms.Reichenberg, high ranking officials from health ministry of Serbia and GAIN at the forum`s opening.

BELGRADE, Serbia, 2 March 2011 — Mandatory salt iodization in the production of salt for households,  bakeries and other key food industries have led to vast progress in providing the micronutrient which protects children from the risks of mental disabilities caused by  iodine deficiency in the diet, according to a new report launched here today.

The regional study of 20 countries, entitled Universal Salt Iodization in CEE CIS during 2000-2009, provides compelling evidence from countries which have enacted legislation of the iodine supplies through the highly influential salt chains for food manufacturers, public catering and households.

“Engaging governments, salt suppliers and food manufacturing industries are crucial as the experience in Serbia has proven. We encourage as many countries as possible to follow this strategy,” said the Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Health of Serbia Dr. Svetlana Mijatovic at the forum`s opening.

Dr. Mijatovic emphasized Serbia`s commitment to promote sustainability of universal salt iodization by approving legislation that will fully harmonize Serbia with international standards in salt iodization and by allocating a budget for impact monitoring.

Annually, an estimated 2.6 million babies or 46 per cent of 5.6 million babies in the region are born in households not using adequately iodised salt and therefore are unprotected from iodine deficiency disorders. It is difficult to gather data for under-two-year-olds and most surveys track urinary iodine in school children and pregnant women.  If a mother is deficient, it is certain that her baby will be born deficient.

Up to 80 per cent of the total salt intake in this mostly industrialized region is consumed through processed foods such as bread, meat, cheese and dairy products, according to the report by UNICEF and stakeholders in Central, East Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent Nations.

Among the countries in the study, only Russia and Ukraine have yet to benefit from an adoption of this most feasible, least costly and most effective way to reach all children. Once this practice would be adopted in the two countries which have the largest populations in the region, it would potentially raise the daily consumption of adequately iodized salt in the region to up to 98 per cent on average from the current 51 per cent. The major objection in Russia and Ukraine commonly cited is the insistence on freedom of choice of iodized versus common household salt in the retail outlets, noted the report.

© UNICEF Serbia 2011
UNICEF Area Representative Judita Reichenberg and Goodwill Ambassador Anatoly Karpov smile in front of a Serbian poster promoting iodised salt.

Bread in Serbia, as in Russia and Ukraine, is an important staple food with widespread daily consumption.  The experience of several West European countries, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere in the region has proved that switching the salt in bread baking to the iodized one does not require any major change in existing technology or personnel investments. The use of iodised salt does not substantially increase the price of bread, according to the report.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Anatoly Karpov at the forum said, “When the decade-long experience of salt iodisation in the majority of countries in our region shows how to reach success, it does not seem smart to continue inventing alternatives.”

“In countries where bread and other processed foods containing salt contribute significantly to the population’s diet, replacement of the non-iodised salt with iodised salt by the food industries is an important contribution to ensure adequate iodine levels,” said Lorenzo Locatelli-Rossi, GAIN Salt Iodisation Manager.

Iodine is a dietary element that is essential for the development and growth of the human body, especially the brain. Iodine deficiency is the most common preventable cause of mental disability in the world, resulting in an IQ loss of 10-15 per cent during school age. It impacts on the child’s learning and earning later in life. Providing iodine through salt for human (including table salt and salt used for industrial food production) and animal consumption is the easiest, most effective and least expensive way for complete prevention.

*The sources for all the data cited in this press release can be found in the report.
For more information, please contact: 
Ministry of Health, The Republic of Serbia, Ms. Tina Anicic, PR Manager  +381 11 64 881 2125 for  interviews with Dr Svetlana Mijatovic, Assistant Minister for Health Inspection of the Ministry of Health, Serbia
Institute of Public, Republic of Serbia Ms. Ana Marija Dinic. PR Manager, +381 11 63 882 1274 for interviews with Dr Tanja Knezevic, General Manager
UNICEF, Ms. Lely Djuhari, Regional Communication Specialist MEDIACEECIS@UNICEF.ORG, +41792044482 for interviews with the UNICEF Regional Nutrition Advisor, Vilma Tyler
GAIN, Rebecca Spohrer, GAIN Associate +4122 749 17 90 for interviews with GAIN Salt Iodization Manager, Lorenzo Locatelli-Rossi.

UNICEF Regional Office for CEE CIS advocates at regional level for investment in children and for child-centred social policies. The 20 countries in the report are: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, TFYR of Macedonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Montenegro, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the UN administered province of Kosovo. The office liaises with major intergovernmental bodies on region-wide children’s issues, such as the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe and other sectoral bodies to develop regional partnerships for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. For more information, please visit:

About GAIN
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is an alliance driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition. GAIN is a Swiss foundation that mobilizes public-private partnerships and provides financial and technical support to deliver nutritious foods to those people most at risk of malnutrition. It was created in 2002 at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. GAIN is delivering improved nutrition to close to 400 million people, half of whom are women and children, in more than 25 countries. GAIN’s goal is to reach more than one billion people with fortified foods that have sustainable nutritional impact. GAIN is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and its presence in Cairo, Johannesburg, Nairobi, New Delhi, Shanghai and Washington D.C. supports programs. For more information, please visit:

IDD Regional -Conference Official statement of UNICEF Area Representative



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