DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Iron Fortified Salt

By Caty Weaver

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

World Health Organization experts say the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world is a lack of iron. A lack of iron in the blood is the main cause of anemia. The WHO says the condition called iron deficiency anemia affects almost two-thousand-million people around the world. That is one-third of the world's population.

Almost forty percent of children under the age of five are anemic. More than fifty percent of pregnant women suffer from anemia. Ninety percent of those cases are in developing nations.

Iron deficiency anemia is linked with other nutritional problems. These include a lack of folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin B twelve. Anemia also is commonly found in people with serious diseases. These include malaria, HIV infection and diseases caused by parasites that invade and live in the human body.

An organization based in Canada is working to reduce the iron deficiency problem around the world. The group is called the Micronutrient Initiative. It is researching ways to add iron to foods that do not already have the nutrient. For thirty years, researchers have been looking for ways to add iron to salt. This is because salt does not cost much and is used everywhere.

However, scientists have had major problems adding iron to salt. This is because of the iodine that has been added to salt since the Nineteen-Twenties. Iodine is also very important for human health. A lack of iodine in the diet can cause a reduction in intelligence. An extreme lack of iodine in children can cause severe mental and physical disabilities.

However, iron and iodine cannot be in the same substance because they react to each other. Recently, scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada found a way to add both iron and iodine to salt. The scientists covered particles of iodine and iron with a substance so they would not react to each other. The substance is completely acceptable to the body's digestive system.

The new salt containing both iron and iodine has been tested successfully in India, Guatemala and Ghana. The Micronutrient Initiative plans to provide the new technology to salt producers. The improved salt should appear in stores around the world as early as next year.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Caty Weaver. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English