Vietnam an iodine deficient nation again

By Nam Phuong   May 27, 2018 | 11:03 pm PT
Vietnam an iodine deficient nation again
Vietnam is listed among world's top iodine-deficient countries. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Pho
Doctors blame government's decision to lift mandatory use of iodized salt in food processing.

A drastic increase of goiter among children has sparked alarm over increasing iodine deficiency in Vietnam.

Citing a 2013-2014 study, the Nation Institute of Nutrition (NIN) reports that the incidence of goiter among children 8 to 10 years old, rose to the highest rate recorded in the previous 10 years at 10 percent. It was below 5 percent in 2005.

The finger of blame for this situation is being pointed squarely at a government decision in 2005 to remove mandatory iodine fortification of processed food. That year, household consumption of iodized salt had reached 93 percent nationwide.

Another NIN study found that just 6 percent of the population use iodized salt as their main food seasoning, but up to 75 percent use fish sauce, soy sauce, seasoning powder and other condiments while cooking.

Le Danh Tuyen, director of the institute, emphasized the importance of using iodine in food processing instead of relying solely on salt. “Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, so we must find different food-intakes to supply iodine to the body,” she said.

Explaining the current situation, Do Hong Phuong, a member of the UNICEF, explained that government had shut down mandatory iodine fortification after 2005, and the national goiter prevention program no longer received state funding.

In Hanoi, iodine consumption rate was at 100 percent in 2005, but in just three to four years, iodine salt consumption dropped to 30 percent.

On March 15, 2017, a government regulation requiring the food industry to use iodized salt took effect, but not many have fully complied, the nutrition institute said.

The Iodine Global Network ranks Vietnam among top 19 iodine-deficient countries and has advised that Vietnamese people use iodized salt directly in food seasoning, food processing, and livestock feeding.

Prolonged iodine deficiency can cause nerve damage among infants and children; and make pregnant women suffer miscarriage or go into preterm labor. Adults can also suffer goiter, nerve damage and mental illness.

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