March 2020

Artisanal salt: a threat to salt iodization in Mexico

Mexico has a long history in combating iodine deficiency in its population, dating back to the 1940s. Although there were initial efforts to establish salt iodization activities over the subsequent decades to prevent goiter, it wasn’t until 1988 that Universal salt Iodization (USI) was established in the Regulations of the General Health Law and a Presidential Decree made it mandatory to iodize all edible salt in Mexico.

Mexico’s Salt Iodization Program began in 1991 as a national coalition between the Ministry of Health and the Mexican Salt Industry Association. In addition to iodine, fluoride was added to all edible salt. The program mandated that all salt was iodized, whether for direct human consumption (table salt), for use by the food industry or for animal consumption, while not complying with regulations resulted in destruction of the product, reprocessing and/or fines. A country of nearly 125 million people, nearly 90% of salt produced in Mexico is currently adequately iodized and has been credited with the virtual elimination of goiter and the protection of the brains of over two million newborn children every year.

Concern with the exemption of artisanal salt

Despite the history and progress in the national salt iodization program in Mexico, there is currently a proposal to exempt artisanal salt from being iodized. Responding to a request from a group of artisanal salt producers and importers, this exemption would leave between 3.5 million and 6 million people vulnerable to iodine deficiency by eliminating this important source of iodine in their daily diet.

What is being done to combat this proposed change in policy?

The Mexican Association of the Salt Industry (AMISAC) and the Ministry of Health participated in a series of working group meetings to express its disagreement with the proposed exemption of iodization of artisanal salt, as it would conflict directly with the mandatory regulations in place and create programmatic challenges to the Ministry of Health which is responsible for implementation of the national salt iodization program.

IGN strongly opposes any exemption to Mexico’s USI program, which would compromise the tremendous success achieved, leading to a decline in the supply of iodine in the diet and adversely affect the cognitive development of Mexico’s children, which has life-long impacts on IQ and the country’s economic development.