CASH/WASH Response to Iodine Paper

A study published in The Lancet by Bath et al has shown evidence of mild iodine deficiency in the UK, which may lead to impaired brain development of new-born children. Women of child-bearing age should look to obtain all the iodine they need naturally from their diet; from fish, milk and dairy products.   The Government should also consider iodisation of flour, as this has been successfully implemented in Australia and New Zealand.

In many countries, iodine has been put into salt, however not all salt is iodised. This often means that those that need the iodine the most are still not getting it.  The WHO  recently convened a joint meeting in Sydney to address these concerns. It was deemed important that where salt should be used as the means to deliver iodine to the population, that all salt should be iodised. This includes all salt used by the processed food industry and that the level of iodine put in salt is adjusted to the WHO recommended maximum of 5g salt per day for all adults, and less for children.  Where possible other vehicles for iodine fortification should be considered.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) is currently considering the issue of iodine deficiency in the UK, however there are currently no plans for fortification of salt with iodine.  Our current high salt intake is responsible for many thousands of deaths from strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and kidney disease each year and any recommendation to iodise salt in the UK presents a conflict in public health.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women need 250 micrograms per day and other adults need 150mcg.
FoodPortion sizeAverage iodine per portion (mcg)
Cow's milk200ml50-80*
Organic cow's milk200ml30-65*
Eggs1 egg (50g)20
White fish100g115
Oily fish100g50
Bread1 slice (36g)5
Fruit and veg1 portion (80g)3

*Depending on season - iodine levels higher in winter


Please click here for a fact sheet on iodine from the British Dietetic Association

Please click here for the paper in The Lancet

Effect of inadequate iodine status in UK pregnant women on cognitive outcomes in their children: results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)
Sarah C Bath PhD, Colin D Steer MSc, Prof Jean Golding FMedSci, Pauline Emmett PhD, Prof Margaret P Rayman DPhil
The Lancet doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60436-5