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Arch Public Health. 2012; 70(1): 10.
Published online May 30, 2012. doi:  10.1186/0778-7367-70-10
PMCID: PMC3461451
Sodium reduction and the correction of iodine intake in Belgium: Policy options
Stefanie Vandevijverecorresponding author1
1Scientific Institute of Public Health, Department of Public Health and Surveillance, J.Wytsmanstraat 14, Brussels, 1050, Belgium
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Stefanie Vandevijvere: Stefanie.vandevijvere/at/wiv-isp.be
Received April 12, 2012; Accepted May 30, 2012.
Abstract
Many studies suggest that high salt intakes are related to high blood pressure and consequently cardiovascular diseases. In addition salt intake was found to be related with obesity, renal stones, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. Belgium, such as other European countries, is suffering from both salt intakes that are twice as high as the recommended intakes and mild iodine deficiency. No comprehensive strategy encompassing both public health problems has been developed. While specific salt reduction targets for processed foods are still under discussion using a consensus approach with industry, an agreement was signed between the bakery sector and the Ministry of Health in April 2009, to encourage and increase the use of iodised salt in the production of bread. Based on results of recent surveys on population iodine status it is advised not to currently revise iodine concentrations in salt in bread but to advocate for a higher percentage of bakers using iodised salt and to install a good monitoring system to control the percentage of bakers effectively using adequately iodised salt. With regard to salt reduction, it is of utmost importance that all companies contribute and harmonise the salt content of their products according to the lowest possible thresholds in a first step. In order to achieve this goal, it will be necessary, in addition to the consensus approach, to come up with at least some legislative tools such as a salt tax or mandatory labelling of foods exceeding a specific sodium concentration. Once salt reduction targets have been clearly defined in Belgium over the longer term, a legal framework should be set in place where iodine concentration in salt for the production of bread and household salt is strictly regulated by law, to avoid a large variability in the iodine content of salt brands consumed. In conclusion, it is possible to tackle salt reduction and iodine deficiency at the same time on the condition that the approach is coordinated and well monitored. All the interventions and measures taken should clearly include education and communication directed towards consumers, food producers, public health professionals, pharmacists, healthcare workers, and media representatives.
Keywords: Sodium, Iodine, Belgium
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