Will a law be passed on iodisation of salt?

A ‘round table’ discussion took place on “Prevention of Iodine
Deficiency illnesses in Russia: Solutions to a serious problem”. One of the
participants, Elena Nikolaeva, chairperson of the Public Chamber’s Committee on
Social Issues and Politics, noted that if there is no change in the iodine
deficiency situation, the country’s economy will suffer. According to
Nikolaeva, there is not one region in Russia where the population are not at risk
of contracting an Iodine deficiency related illness. According to a 2006 UNICEF
report, approximately one million children a year are born with an iodine
deficiency and experts say this will lead to slowed development. The
recommended daily dose of iodine is 150-200micrograms (mg). Most people in the
country receive 40-80mg. Twenty percent of Russians have iodine deficiency
related illnesses and the amount of iodine given to pregnant women is below the
dose recommended by WHO.

In both developed and third world countries, there are public health
programmes whose aim is to prevent iodine deficiency. Ten of the CIS countries
have passed laws requiring iodisation of salt. Galina Melnichko, director of
the Institute of Clinical Endocrinology, added that since the 1990’s 96
countries have introduced prevention of iodine deficiency programmes. Only 13
countries still do not have a programme despite having an iodine deficiency
problem. Amongst these are many African countries, Columbia, Ukraine and
Russia. Melnichko reminded us that in 1999 the Russian Government passed a bill
on “Measures to prevent iodine deficiency related illnesses”. In subsequent
years 43 Russian provinces have established local programmes to deal with
iodine deficiency but, in Melnichko’s opinion, none of them have been
effective. In January 2007, the Ministry of Health signed a bill in which one
of the recommendations was to give pregnant women medicines containing iodine.
Melnichko thinks that the State Duma would have passed the bill on iodisation
of salt if it hadn’t been for lobbyists. The favourite argument of deputies
against the bill is “Are you going to give babies iodised salt? No! They will
be fed breast milk and the mother will get iodised salt!”

Grigorii Gerasimov, UNICEF advisor and regional coordinator in Eastern
Europe and Central Asia for the International Council on Iodine Deficiency
Illnesses, talked about his experiences of the battle with iodine deficiency.
“In China, 95 percent of the population eat only iodised salt. In Tibet the
government is establishing a programme to encourage consumption of iodised
salt.” In developed countries, the main aim of these public health programmes
is to use iodised salt in the production of bread. According to Gerasimov, “In
1944, the Dutch government passed a law on using iodised salt in bakeries and
this law is more than 65 years old.” In Germany, Romania and Bulgaria the
majority of bakeries use only iodised salt. Ten years ago Belarus decided to
use iodised salt in food production and even paid for the airing of television
commercials promoting a healthy diet.

By 2010, endemic goitre illness due to iodine deficiency had decreased
by four times in adults. Illnesses due to iodine deficiency also decreased in
children and teenagers. The UNICEF report “Iodine deficiency in Russia:
Problems and Solutions” says that several negative reactions from government
departments are preventing the passing of a bill to fight iodine deficiency.
The departments fear that a compulsory requirement of iodised salt in food will
lead to less choice in products for the consumer. Nevertheless, the experts who
participated in the ‘round table’ discussion noted that the last year has seen
some positive signs that the legislation will be passed. The State Duma set up
an expert panel on health and in 2010 the bill on Iodisation of salt was
finalised. Elena Nikolaeva has promised to pass on the conclusions of the
‘round table’ discussion to the Russian government, the Ministry of Health, the
Ministry of Science, the State Duma and local authorities in Russian


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