Germany’s new campaign aims to raise awareness of iodine deficiency
Every year, World Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) Day serves as a reminder of the importance of iodine and the consequences of its deficiency. This year, Germany is taking a bold step to address iodine deficiency with its new campaign, “If salt, then iodized salt” led by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. This initiative is a timely response to the alarming fact that more than a third of the population in Germany is at risk of iodine deficiency, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute.
Iodized salt: A proven public health intervention
Iodine deficiency is a pressing public health concern with severe consequences for individuals and communities. The use of iodized salt to prevent iodine deficiency is a testament to the effectiveness of public health interventions. Just over a century ago, large segments of the European population grappled with severe iodine deficiency due to iodine-poor diets. However, thanks to the widespread adoption of iodized salt, conditions such as goitre and cretinism caused by iodine deficiency are now health concerns of the past in most countries around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the significance of salt iodization and recommends iodizing salt as a preventive measure against iodine deficiency. On World Iodine Deficiency Day, IGN celebrates the success of this global initiative over the past three decades, and continues to work to provide sustainable and equitable access to adequate iodine nutrition.
Salt iodization is mandatory in half of the 53 countries in the WHO European region, while others permit both iodized and non-iodized salt. However, despite regulations for iodized salt in most European countries, reinforcement and effectiveness vary, with some nations having only recently updated their iodization programs. Recent data suggests that the use of iodized salt may be on the decline in countries with voluntary regulations, particularly in industrially processed foods, which are now the main source of salt in European diets.
Iodine deficiency continues to affect populations worldwide, including Germany and other European countries. As in most countries, Germany’s soil is naturally low in iodine, making it challenging to obtain sufficient iodine solely from food sources. While sea fish, milk, and eggs can provide iodine, ensuring a consistent and adequate iodine supply for the population requires additional measures. These measures include iodizing table salt, which is then used in food production, catering, and private households.
Germany’s public health campaign, launched in collaboration with the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE) and supported by the scientific advisory board of the Iodine Deficiency Working Group, aims to raise awareness about the importance of iodine for health. The campaign provides valuable information and resources, such as downloadable infographics under the hashtag #JodZuWissen, offering facts and information about iodine, and an informative checklist containing tips on achieving adequate iodine intake.
The campaign encourages the use of iodized salt, while moderate salt consumption. Federal Minister Cem Özdemir underscores the critical nature of this campaign: “Anyone who consumes too little iodine in the long term can risk serious health problems. Iodine is particularly important for children and young people so that they can grow up healthy. Therefore: If salt, then iodized salt!”
Recommitting to equitable and sustainable access to adequate iodine on World IDD Day
While progress has been made in addressing iodine deficiency in children across Europe, the issue persists among adults and pregnant women, primarily in countries with voluntary salt fortification strategies. To make significant headway in preventing iodine deficiency, we must prioritize the promotion of iodized salt and commit to ensuring optimal iodine nutrition for all population groups. On World IDD Day, we are reminded of the ongoing need to combat iodine deficiency disorders. Germany’s new campaign illustrates the proactive steps that can be taken to address this critical health issue. It is a call to reinvigorate our commitment to ensuring that everyone has access to iodine, an essential element for health and well-being.