Iodine-enriched bouillon slows returning deficiency in Vietnam

By Staff reporters   November 28, 2017 | 04:45 am PT
Uniben’s ‘3 Mien Bouillon’ comes almost a decade after the country successfully contained the issue.

Millions of Vietnamese meals are being enriched with iodine thanks to Uniben, a Vietnamese food manufacturer, and its latest iodized seasoning ‘3 Mien Bouillon’.

Since March 2016, Uniben has given away more than nine million packs of the iodine-enriched bouillon at a total cost of more than VND120 billion (around $5.4 million). These free packs mainly come with the company's “3 Mien” instant noodles.

Vietnam is at high risk of a resurfacing iodine deficiency, experts warn, almost a decade after the country's successful national Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control Program.

A WHO survey in 2015 reported 77.7 percent of pregnant Vietnamese women did not have sufficient iodine intake, of which 44.6 percent were in moderate to severe states of deficiency.

According to nutritionists, there are two main causes for this nationwide comeback.

While recent severe floods have gradually washed iodine out of the ground used to grow plants and crops, Vietnamese families have changed their habits of using table salt to salted spices, which do not contain iodine.

Iodine is essential to proper functioning of the thyroid gland, and a lack of iodine can cause Iodine Deficiency Disorders, according to physician and nutritionist Dr. Do Thi Ngoc Diep, director of the Ho Chi Minh Nutrition Center.

Pregnant women and children need iodine the most, although the substance is indispensable for all ages.

Iodine can only be consumed through daily food and cannot be produced by the body itself.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iodine [1]


Daily intake, mcg






Birth to 6 months 110* 110*    
7–12 months 130* 130*    
1–3 years 90 90    
4–8 years 90 90    
9–13 years 120 120    
14–18 years 150 150    
19+ years 150 150 220 290

The Vietnamese government attempted to slow the deficiency's come back by urging food manufacturers to enrich their products with more iodine in September 2016. However, the directive hasn’t had a significant impact as food manufacturers argue that adding iodine raises costs, changes the foods' color and taste, and reduces its shelf life.

The latest iodized bouillon, a joint effort between Uniben and nutrition scientists from the Ho Chi Minh City Nutrition Center, has been warmly welcomed by thousands of Vietnamese family. After one year, approximately 6 to 9 million Vietnamese households have become familiar with “iodized bouillon” and regularly use it in cooking.

This protects more than 30 million Vietnamese against the risk of mental retardation caused by iodine deficiency.


Dr Diep Do (L), director of the Ho Chi Minh Nutrition Center, introduces “3 Mien Iodized Bouillon” at a conference to promote a healthy lifestyle on October 26, 2016. Photo courtesy of Uniben.

A cross-sectional experiment identified that median iodine intake from “3 Mien Iodized Bouillon” is increasing from 264 ± 126 mcg/day, much higher than non-iodized supplementation, which is 95.6 ± 50.1 mcg/day.

“3 Mien Iodized Bouillon” also adds a savory flavor to all dishes.

Uniben is not only a pioneering food manufacturer in supplying iodine. The company is also a prominent advocate of healthy eating habits and has handed out millions of handbooks to educate Vietnamese on the importance of iodine intake.

‘Uniben always considers the care of community health as our main corporate social responsibility,” said Dr Dung Vu, CEO of Uniben. “The community-oriented program “3 Mien Iodized Bouillon” with its unique product in the Vietnamese market is just the beginning of the journey in this direction.”

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