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CASH/WASH Response to Iodine Paper

30 May 2013

A study published in The Lancet by Bath et al has shown evidence of mild iodine deficiency in the UK, which may lead to impaired brain development of new-born children.

Women of child-bearing age should look to obtain all the iodine they need naturally from their diet; from fish, milk and dairy products.   The Government should also consider iodisation of flour, as this has been successfully implemented in Australia and New Zealand.

In many countries, iodine has been put into salt, however not all salt is iodised. This often means that those that need the iodine the most are still not getting it.  The WHO  recently convened a joint meeting in Sydney to address these concerns. It was deemed important that where salt should be used as the means to deliver iodine to the population, that all salt should be iodised. This includes all salt used by the processed food industry and that the level of iodine put in salt is adjusted to the WHO recommended maximum of 5g salt per day for all adults, and less for children.  Where possible other vehicles for iodine fortification should be considered.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) is currently considering the issue of iodine deficiency in the UK, however there are currently no plans for fortification of salt with iodine.  Our current high salt intake is responsible for many thousands of deaths from strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and kidney disease each year and any recommendation to iodise salt in the UK presents a conflict in public health.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women need 250 micrograms per day and other adults need 150mcg.

Food Portion size Average iodine per portion (mcg)
Cow's milk 200ml 50-80*
Organic cow's milk 200ml 30-65*
Yoghurt 150mg 50-100*
Eggs 1 egg (50g) 20
Cheese 40g 15
White fish 100g 115
Oily fish 100g 50
Shellfish 100g 90
Meat 100g 10
Poultry 100g 10
Bread 1 slice (36g) 5
Fruit and veg 1 portion (80g) 3

*Depending on season - iodine levels higher in winter


Please click here for a fact sheet on iodine from the British Dietetic Association

Please click here for the paper in The Lancet

Effect of inadequate iodine status in UK pregnant women on cognitive outcomes in their children: results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)

Sarah C Bath PhD, Colin D Steer MSc, Prof Jean Golding FMedSci, Pauline Emmett PhD, Prof Margaret P Rayman DPhil The Lancet doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60436-5



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