Sunday, May 1, 2011

Now your table salt comes with iron too: Double fortified salt to be available in market

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Nearly two decades after it was conceptualised, common salt containing iron will soon be available in the market for mass consumption.
The technology of fortifying common salt with both iodine and iron, developed by the city-based National Institution of Nutrition, has been successfully tested in tribal areas where the incidence of anaemia and malaria is quite high.
Backed by the successful results, the NIN has transferred the technology to salt manufacturers, who will soon introduce the product in the market. In Andhra Pradesh, AP Foods, a government-owned enterprise, will set up a plant at Visakhapatnam to produce double-fortified salt.
It will cost about Re 1 more. There's no change in taste or colour. As many as 20 dishes, both south and north Indian, have been prepared using double fortified salt to test whether there's any change in their taste.
"Developing salt with both iodine and iron has been a major challenging task before us. When iron is added to salt, the iodine leaves it, defeating the very purpose of double fortification. Lot of research has gone into it and we have developed stabiliser to ensure both iron and iodine stay in the common salt. Our studies have shown that the shelf life of double fortified common salt is more than one year," NIN director Dr B Sesikeran said. Double fortification of salt is possible only if it is 98 to 99 per cent pure. It does not work with crude salt.
Double fortification of common salt has been necessitated to fight iodine and iron deficiency in one go. Though iodised salt has been made mandatory by the Centre, it cleared the proposal of double fortification only last week. Iron deficiency leads to a major health problem called anaemia. Between 70 and 80 per cent of pregnant women, 50 to 70 per cent of children, and 50 per cent of the general public suffer from anaemia. 
Anaemia or low iron content in the blood is responsible for reduced mental attention and learning capacity, and physical weakness.
"Vegetarian food is low in iron. High dietary fibre in food makes iron absorption in the body very low. Since we cannot ask vegetarians to shift to non-vegetarian food, double fortification of common salt will solve the problem. Studies on schoolchildren in Rampachodavaram in East Godavari district have shown that despite high incidence of malaria, the iron content in their blood has increased," Dr Sesikeran pointed out.
He said since NIN has transferred the technology free of cost, salt companies have agreed to supply 20 per cent of their produce to government at subsidised rates for distribution among poor people. Excess intake of iron will not cause any harm, as the body has inbuilt mechanism to throw away excess iron through excretion.

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