Australian bread to get an iodine boost

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 8th October 2009

The addition of iodised salt to Australian bread from tomorrow (October 9) will help address the re-emergence of iodine deficiency across most of the population, the nation’s food regulatory body advised today.

Dr Paul Brent, Chief Scientist for Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), said this initiative will address this important public health issue.

“Iodine is essential for the healthy function of the thyroid gland to help it produce hormones that regulate metabolism, including the regulation of body temperature. Most people need only a small amount a day but we need iodine regularly because we cannot store large amounts in the body,” he said.

“Iodine is particularly important for the normal development of a baby’s brain and nervous system, especially during pregnancy and in the first 2-3 years of life . Not having enough iodine during pregnancy and early childhood can cause developmental delay and lead to reductions in mental performance. This damage prior to 2-3 years of age is irreversible.”

Dr Brent noted that many foods contain iodine but Australian and New Zealand diets were often lacking enough of the nutrient as the country’s ancient soils lack this important nutrient.

“The mandatory iodine fortification regulation requires the replacement of the existing salt in bread with iodised salt,” he advised. “This is preferable to people adding extra iodised salt to their food. The only exception is organic bread which is not required to contain iodine because of the rules about organic food.”

“We chose to add iodised salt to bread as it is a commonly eaten food. However, we recognise that some people may not eat bread. Other sources of iodine in the diet, in addition to the fortified bread, include seafood, fish, dairy products, and eggs.”

The iodine mandatory fortification standard was developed by FSANZ at the request of the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council that consists of health and food ministers from the Australian Federal, State and Territory Governments and the New Zealand Government.

There is more information about iodine and folic acid mandatory fortification in Australia, including a web seminar for health professionals, consumer videos and fact sheets, on the FSANZ website at www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodmatters/fortification/index.cfm.