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Iodine follows folic acid as must-have addition to bread

By Danny Rose, Medical Writer
Sat Oct 10 00:42:21 EST 2009
Fri Oct 9 13:42:21 UTC 2009
FED: Iodine follows folic acid as must-have addition to bread Eds: Embargoed to 0001 AEDT Friday, October 9

SYDNEY, Oct 9 AAP - Bread sold in Australia must contain iodised rather than ordinary salt from Friday.

Bakers are required to use only salt with the added essential nutrient, in a move by health officials to address the re-emergence of iodine deficiency in Australia.

"Iodine is particularly important for the normal development of a baby's brain and nervous system," said Dr Paul Brent, chief scientist for Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

"Not having enough iodine during pregnancy and early childhood can cause developmental delays and lead to reductions in mental performance ... this damage prior to 2-3 years of age is irreversible."

Dr Brent said adults also needed iodine to ensure the healthy function of their thyroid gland, to help it produce hormones that regulate metabolism and body temperature.

Iodine is also found in fish, seafood, dairy products and eggs, and a constant dietary intake is required, Dr Brent said, as the human body did not store iodine in large amounts.

"Mandatory iodine fortification (of bread) is expected to reduce inadequate iodine intakes from 43 per cent to less than five per cent of the Australian population," he said.

The Australian Thyroid Foundation (ATF) said the move was a welcome first step, coming after the issue of iodine deficiency had been "overlooked and ignored ... by Australian public health authorities".

"Whilst the mandatory fortification of iodised salt in bread is a step in the right direction and will improve the situation ... it will not fix iodine deficiency in this country," said ATF's chief medical adviser Creswell Eastman.

Prof Eastman said the salt in other staples - such as biscuits and cereals - should also be switched to iodised salt to "ensure all Australians are able to receive adequate levels of iodine needed for good brain development and function and good thyroid health".

Adults need 150 micrograms of iodine daily, he said, while a child needs 120 micrograms and for pregnant women the required intake increases to 250 micrograms.

Prof Eastman said the move to fortify bread would raise an average Australian's intake of iodine by about 46 micrograms daily.

"Low iodine intake is one of the most important international public health issues, often resulting in lower IQs amongst children and difficulties in conceiving among women," he said.

The move on iodine comes after mandatory folic acid fortification was also introduced to Australia's bread supply last month.

The nation's bakers were required to add a small amount of folic acid to their products from September 13, to address a deficiency that poses a particular risk to foetal development during pregnancy.

Organic bakers are exempt from the changes, and their bread products are not required to include either iodised salt or folic acid.