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Fortification of food-grade (edible) salt with iodine is recommended as a safe, cost-effective and sustainable strategy for the prevention of iodine-deficiency disorders. The present paper examines the legislative framework for salt iodization in Asian countries.
We reviewed salt iodization legislation in thirty-six countries in Asia and the Pacific. We obtained copies of existing and draft legislation for salt iodization from UNICEF country offices and the WHO’s Global Database of Implementation of Nutrition Actions. We compiled legislation details by country and report on commonalities and gaps using a standardized form. The association between type of legislation and availability of iodized salt in households was assessed.
We identified twenty-one countries with existing salt iodization legislation, of which eighteen were mandatory. A further nine countries have draft legislation. The majority of countries with draft and existing legislation used a mandatory standard or technical regulation for iodized salt under their Food Act/Law. The remainder have developed a ‘stand-alone’ Law/Act. Available national surveys indicate that the proportion of households consuming adequately iodized salt was lowest in countries with no, draft or voluntary legislation, and highest in those where the legislation was based on mandatory regulations under Food Acts/Laws.
Legislation for salt iodization, particularly mandatory legislation under the national food law, facilitates universal salt iodization. However, additional important factors for implementation of salt iodization and maintenance of achievements include the salt industry’s structure and capacity to adequately fortify, and official commitment and capacity to enforce national legislation.
The main indicator adopted to track universal salt iodization has been the coverage of adequately iodized salt in households. Rapid test kits (RTK) have been included in household surveys to test the iodine content in salt. However, laboratory studies of their performance have concluded that RTK are reliable only to distinguish between the presence and absence of iodine in salt, but not to determine whether salt is adequately iodized. The aim of the current paper was to examine the performance of RTK under field conditions and to recommend their most appropriate use in household surveys.
Standard performance characteristics of the ability of RTK to detect the iodine content in salt at 0 mg/kg (salt with no iodine), 5 mg/kg (salt with any added iodine) and 15 mg/kg (‘adequately’ iodized salt) were calculated. Our analysis employed the agreement rate (AR) as a preferred metric of RTK performance.
Twenty-five data sets from eighteen population surveys which assessed household iodized salt by both the RTK and a quantitative method (i.e. titration or WYD Checker) were obtained from Asian (nineteen data sets), African (five) and European (one) countries.
In detecting iodine in salt at 0 mg/kg, the RTK had an AR>90 % in eight of twenty-three surveys, while eight surveys had an AR<80 %. When the RTK was used for detecting adequately iodized salt, the AR decreased significantly, with only one of fourteen surveys achieving an AR>90 %.
The RTK is not suited for assessment of adequately iodized salt coverage. Quantitative assessment, such as by titration or WYD Checker, is necessary for estimates of adequately iodized salt coverage.
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