Non-iodized salt still legal

Minister sounds false alarm; government still mulling the ban

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Thursday 15 September 2005

union minister of health and family welfare Anbumani Ramadoss recently caused much confusion by announcing that India will ban the sale of non-iodized salt from August 15, 2005, though the decision in this regard is still pending. Interest groups were thrown into a tizzy trying to validate their stands. The ban is indeed a part of a May 27, 2005, notification on amendment of the prevention of food adulteration rules, 1955, controlled by the Union ministry of health and family welfare. The notification invited comments to be submitted in the next two months. Under standard protocol, a final decision will be taken only after reviewing all comments.

If accepted, the amendment would ensure that non-iodized salt is not available in the market for human consumption; it would be available only for limited purposes, including preservation, medicinal and industrial use. The amendment aims to protect people from iodine deficiency, which can cause cretinism, goiter and loss of iq. Food is the main source of iodine, but due to excessive flooding, soils in certain areas have become deficient and the food grown there does not have enough iodine. Salt is considered the best vehicle to counter the deficiency as it is consumed by all. Marine fishes are also rich in iodine but sea salt is a poor source.

However, there are many opponents of iodizing salt. They argue that consumers have the right to decide what they want and the government should not increase the cost of salt by fortifying it with iodine. Also, they oppose a blanket ban because studies by government organisations have revealed that the quantity of iodine in the food eaten in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal is already much higher than the minimum need. Excess Iodine causes depression, nervousness, insomnia and impotence. Besides, potassium iodate, used for iodizing salt in India, is also a bone of contention; developed nations use potassium iodide.

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