Almost half the children aged between 8 to 10 in Malaysia are suffering from iodine deficiency.
To be specific, the study on iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) showed that 48.2% of school-going children in the age group had issues with lack of iodine.
Following this, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has made it compulsory for all salt sold in the country to be added with iodine.
In a statement, health director-general Tan Dri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that amendments to Regulation 285 of the Food Regulations 1985 pertaining to iodised salt would be in force from Sept 30.
“The amendments mandate that iodine must be added to fine salt or salt which weighs 20kg or less, before being sold in the whole of Malaysia, ” he said.
The statement detailed how 2.1% of children who lacked iodine suffered from enlarged thyroid glands or goitre.
He also said that surveys done revealed that iodine was not at optimum levels among pregnant women and students.
Compulsory to add iodine now
“Therefore, the implementation of the Universal Salt Iodisation (USI) in Malaysia will help increase iodine intake among the community as salt ,is a basic ingredient used at all levels of society regardless of income status,” he said.
Noor Hisham also added that MOH, through its Food Safety and Quality Division would conduct checks and enforce the new regulation.
"Failure to comply with the amendment under Regulation 285 is an offence, and if convicted the manufacturer and seller can be fined not more than ten thousand ringgit or imprisoned for a term not exceeding two years," he said.
The statement also detailed how the rule had been previously enforced in Sabah and that users would not have to worry as iodised salt would not taste any different than regular salt.
"At the same time, the public have been reminded that there is no need to increase intake of salt as too much salt in food could lead to other diseases including hypertension (high blood pressure)," he said.
For questions pertaining to the matter, the public have been urged to get in touch with the nearest District or State Health Department or contact MoH at moh.spab.gov.my