October 2020

Enhancing iodine nutrition through regional trade

Despite remarkable progress in combating iodine deficiency through universal salt iodization (USI) policies and programs, population segments across countries and regions continue to lack optimal iodine nutrition, highlighting the need for innovative strategies to bridge these gaps.

In 2019 – 2020, IGN and UNICEF embarked on a comprehensive review to the dynamics and barriers associated with trade of iodized salt and salt-containing processed foods in the South Asian region. The analysis was implemented in partnership with IMARC Services and encompassed various research methodologies, including a literature review, stakeholder and key informant interviews and industry data analysis.

The study was guided by a set of key questions aimed at deciphering the intricate dynamics of salt and processed food trade, harmonization of iodized salt standards, and avenues for strengthening regional trade for optimal iodine nutrition.

The study brought to light several significant insights. South Asia is self-sufficient in producing iodized salt, with mandatory salt iodization in seven of the eight countries. On processed foods, some nations are heavily reliant on imports, so trade of processed foods containing salt is of immense importance across the region. As dietary habits evolve, nutrient-rich processed foods could play a vital role in providing iodine supplementation to underserved populations. Strengthening monitoring systems and enhancing labeling will streamline trade and bolster consumer awareness of crucial nutritional content.

The study’s findings led to a series of targeted recommendations designed to harness the potential of trade and enhance iodine nutrition across the South Asian region: transparent labeling; nutrient-enriched processed foods; strengthen legislation; collaborative industry efforts; efficient inspection mechanisms; trade monitoring; reducing import duties; and accountable regulations.

For detailed insights and in-depth findings for each country, access the full report. This collaborative endeavor by IGN and UNICEF ROSA charts a course toward leveraging trade for enhanced iodine nutrition and improved well-being for the diverse populations of South Asia.