The Problem and The Solution

The Problem

Australia is now officially iodine deficient, the evidence is irrefutable. It became official with the publication of the NINS study.

This is already causing health problems as evidenced by the colossal increase in thyroid cancer. Many doctors are noting an increase in goitre and thyroid nodules.

Grave fears are held for the effect on unborn and young children, as iodine is the strongest known factor determining IQ, accounting for 13.5 points. 13.5 IQ points loss economically translates to loss of about 1/3 of lifetime earnings, but this may be an underestimate in view of changes to the “information economy”.

The Solution

Expert groups such as WHO UNICEF & ICCIDD recommend Universal Salt Iodisation USI for all countries. Since 1999 The Australian Centre for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders has been raising the alarm and recommending USI for Australia http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/171_9_011199/eastman/eastman.html

Food Standards ANZ (FSANZ) www.fsanz.gov.au have been looking at iodine since 2003. It was hoped they would quickly implement USI. But they struck a problem.

The Problem with the Solution

When FSANZ look at changing the food supply, they not only look at the problem of deficiency (which undoubtedly exists for iodine), but also they look at upper limits that might cause problems. It just so happens that with adults we have a good idea how much iodine is too much, but there is no research to guide us with children. However this has not stopped some scientists from having a stab in the dark. The only published upper limits for children were guesstimates which are now agreed to be way too low. For example for children a level of 200mcg per day of iodine. This is barely twice the recommended intake of 90mcg, and is way less than the average intake in USA Japan and Korea today, and is way less than the average Australian intake until 1990.

The spurious upper limit entered the National Health & Medical Research Council NHMRC nutritional review, and is the only figure available.

It is MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to put iodine into the food supply to give young children 90mcg per day without a significant number crossing the spurious upper limit UL of 200mcg. To give everyone 90mcg with nobody having 200mcg is like going through the eye of a needle. Accordingly USI will definitely see many children over 200mcg. Not that it matters as all the world experts (many of whom are Australian) agree that 200mcg is perfectly safe and possibly even desirable. Indeed there is no published medical evidence ever to show a health problem in any child from 200mcg of iodine, it is only a guess. If there is a useful upper limit we would probably choose 1000mcg in children. FSANZ see this UL as a major, indeed insurmountable issue.

Accordingly FSANZ are going ahead with a recommendation to iodise the salt in bread alone. The problem with this approach is that it has already been tried in Tasmania and proven to be an abject failure. It certainly does not protect pregnant women. See Seal and Burgess

The Crisis Looms

It was predicted by a speaker at the Nutrition Society of Australia NSA Annual scientific meeting in 2004 that we would shortly see the first new cases of cretinism in Australia. That day gets closer every day. We already are seeing so many cases of rickets in newborns (due to severe vitamin D deficiency) that they don’t even get published any more.

Major authorities are so alarmed that a special meeting was arranged on May 26 2008 at the Australian Academy of Science, by the AAS, ILSI and NSA about this issue.

The Way Forward

It is clear that the only way forward is for FSANZ to arrange urgent implementation of Universal Salt Iodisation USI.

To help smooth this process, NHMRC should remove the flawed guesstimate upper levels of iodine for children. While this is procedurally desirable, and scientifically correct, this need not delay the implementation of USI.

To this end, Iodine Australia New Zealand has composed this Memorandum of Understanding to provide a focal point to solving the problem, and facilitating the implementation of USI.

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