Viet Nam News
HA NOI – The regulation of adding iodine should not be applied to all food, the Việt Nam Dairy Association suggested in a dialogue with the Ministry of Health earlier this week.
Last week, the government issued decree 09/2016/ND-CP to introduce iodine, iron, zinc and vitamin A as compulsory elements that need to be included in Vietnamese food.
The decree on food fortification that will take effect from March 15 this year regulates that the four micronutrients should meet national technical standards and regulations on food safety.
Salt fortified with iodine, iron and zinc must be added to wheat flour, while vegetable oil that contains soybean oil, coconut oil, canola oil or peanut oil is required to have vitamin A – excluding vegetable oil used in industrial food processing, according to the decree.
Bad for business
In the meeting, which was attended by representatives for the Government Office, food processing businesses, the World Health Organisation – Việt Nam (WHO), UNICEF, and scientists, Trần Quang Trung, the association’s president, raised his concerns about the regulation and said that the regulation on adding iodine to food would cause difficulties for milk production businesses.
“Iodine is an oxidizable substance and is changeable during food processing. So it would change the colour and smell of milk products”, said Trung.
“This means that dairy businesses would suffer”, he said.
Therefore, the Việt Nam Dairy Association recommended that the iodine supplement should be regulated to seasoning products only.
Meanwhile, president of the Việt Nam Association of Food Science and Technology, Phan Thị Kim, said many studies showed that each kind of food contains different levels of iodine, so different processing and preservation methods would change the iodine levels.
Iodine could change the colour and smell of foods, which is important to customers, Kim said.
“We thought that the addition of iodine should be regulated for specific kinds of food. Businesses would face difficulties if the regulation was applied across the board”, she said.
For example, salt for direct use must be fortified with iodine, but adding iodine to salt for food processing would need the Ministry of Health’s detailed instructions, she said.
"Each individual has different iodine demands," Kim said.
Good for health
Meanwhile, Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF representatives affirmed the importance of iodine for people’s health, especially with the lack of micro-nutrition in Việt Nam.
Nguyễn Huy Quang from the Ministry of Health, said the regulation on adding iodine to salt for food processing was necessary.
According to Quang, thanks to the implementation of the National Programme on Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control from 1994 to 2005, the rate of children aged 8 to 10 afflicted with basedow disease dropped dramatically, while the iodine level across all Vietnamese people reached WHO standards.
However, after the year 2005, when the use of iodine salt became optional, the rate of children with basedow disease increased to 9.8 per cent, Quang said.
This had become a concern and required intervention, as recommended by UNICEF, he told the meeting.
“This was the reason behind the decree. The Ministry of Health had carried out several meetings to collect opinions from related businesses”, he said.
Recently, the WHO recommended to supplement micro-nutrition in daily meals and food processing as an effective and economical measure which is used in more than 100 countries all over the world.
The WHO representative told the meeting that a recent study showed that the changes in colour and smell of food processed with iodised salt were negligible.
Dr. Friday Nwaigwe, UNICEF Viet Nam’s Head of Child Survival and Development affirmed the need of fortifying iodine in food in Việt Nam to ensure physical and mental health for Vietnamese children.
In many nations, using iodised salt in food processing faced obstacles like in Viet Nam, and the policy required the support from the business community, he said.
In the meeting, deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam asked the Ministry of Health to give detailed instructions to dairy and food processing businesses about using iodised salts. -- VNS