Distribution pattern of iodised salt `uneven'

Staff Reporter

"Need to invest properly in research, development"

CHENNAI: "We need to invest properly in research and development to meet our iodine requirement for iodisation of salt," said R.K. Srivastava, Director General, Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Despite having a programme in place for nearly four decades iodised salt was not supplied to all parts of the country. In some parts non-iodised salt was introduced into consignment moved by road. Despite letters from the ministry and the officials to the violators, nobody had been made accountable, he said addressing a meet organised to spread awareness on the subject.

"It is about development of human resource index. We are able to solve only 20 per cent of the problem while we need to reach out to 70 per cent of the population," he said.

Scientific studies have found that lack of iodine, a trace element necessary for growth, could lead to stunting, poor brain development, and low IQ if found in insufficient quantity in the body.

V.K. Subburaj, Health Secretary, said though 90 per cent households in the State had access to iodised salt only 30 per cent used in adequate quantity. Despite banning sale of non-iodised salt since 1995, surveys had found disparities in the reach of iodised salt among the districts.

In the Nilgiris the problem was high whereas Karur district was least affected, he said. A survey found that women were still unaware of the need to use iodised salt. He suggested fortifying salt with iron since 70 per cent of women in the State suffered from iron deficiency.

S. Sundaresan, Salt Commissioner, said in the northeastern regions of the country over 90 per cent of the population consumed iodised salt because it was transported by train and the movement could be monitored. In the 11th Plan, the government proposed to build 35,000 houses for salt labourers and had proposed health and life insurance cover for them. It had also recommended safety kit such as gloves, gumboots and sunglasses. The country's salt producing states of Andhra Pradesh,

Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, had many small salt manufacturers who did not have the facility to iodise salt. Agencies such as UNICEF had provided small iodisation plants for a few of them, he said. M.A. Ansari, deputy salt commissioner, National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme (NIDDCP), Jaipur and B.K. Tiwari, advisor (Nutrition) to the director general, spoke at the inauguration of the daylong policy level awareness workshop on NIDDCP for southern region.