The Iodine Global Network (IGN) aims to reduce iodine deficiency and achieve optimal iodine intake so that every child can enter school with the full cognitive potential to thrive. IGN advocates for national salt iodization programs, tracks progress on iodization, and provides program guidance at national, regional and global levels.
The process is simple: Minute amounts of iodine are added to all salt we consume in our diets, whether in households or for use in the manufacture of processed foods, such as bread, biscuits and condiments
While the process is simple, there are many ways in which production of iodized salt can be adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Disruptions in availability of labor could slow down production and distribution both of the iodine added to iodized salt (potassium iodate) as well as the iodized salt itself. Production costs could rise, affecting consumers’ ability to buy it. Monitoring of the iodine levels and quality of iodized salt at the point of manufacture, typically the role of Government Health or Food Inspectors, can be impacted.
“IGN has been concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 for several months. Working through regional coordinators, we took an informal survey among a selection of salt producers, potassium iodate producers and others concerning these potential disruptions in supply of adequately iodized salt,” said IGN Executive Director Jonathan Gorstein.
“We’re glad to see that so far, there have been no marked disruptions in supply, although production has been impacted in some countries due to lockdowns and restrictions of movement. More than half of the countries we surveyed saw a decrease in the inspections and monitoring that are vital to ensure that salt is adequately iodized. IGN and its partners will need to be vigilant to maintain the continuing quality of iodized salt, helping governments and producers in any way we can,” he added.
The unpredictability of the pandemic is also a concern for IGN. While some countries appear to be moving towards a resumption of normal life, many are continuing to see high case levels that could lead to future issues with food supply and delays in the return to normal industrial and agricultural production. The organization is planning on formalizing these initial efforts and establishing an early warning system to alert stakeholders to potential problems. Equipped with such information, rapid responses can be taken to support USI programs and prevent any declines in production and coverage.
“Over the years, salt iodization has helped to virtually eliminate the world’s single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation,” says Dr. Gorstein. “We want to reach the few remaining countries that are not optimally iodizing salt, but now, more than ever, we need to protect the progress the world has made.”