Current salt fortification reform plans in Guatemala ‘puts the health of the population at risk’: COFAQUI

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Iamthatiam
© Getty Images / Iamthatiam

Related tags: Salt, Fortification, Guatemala

The College of Pharmacists and Chemists of Guatemala (COFAQUI) has expressed concerns over recent salt fortification reform plans in the country.

COFAQUI joined the rejection of the salt fortification reform of the governmental agreement 29-2004 as it considers it “a step backward from the original agreement and puts the health of the population at greater risk”​, Paola Cano, a Nutritionist at COFAQUI, told FoodNavigator-LATAM.

The current challenge with the present salt fortification standards is the need to repeal the modification of the government agreement and to develop an agreement that strengthens the issue of fortification with iodine and fluoride, Cano urged.

Another current obstacle is ensuring the involvement of other state institutions to support small and medium enterprises. Collaborating with, and garnering the support of these organizations is necessary to “ensure adequate fortification” ​so the population does not continue with the “risk of malnutrition due to the deficiency of these micro-nutrients”​, Cano urged.

A “worrying”​ reform

“In general, the reform is worrying because in several studies it has been found that salt fortification has weakened in recent years,”​ urged Cano.

Less than 37% of salt has the adequate fortification of iodine and fluoride in Guatemala, Cano highlighted. As a result, “the modifications to the agreement should be aimed to strengthen, not take steps backward”,​ Cano emphasized.

Rejecting the current salt fortification reform plans

COFAQUI issued a statement on 11th December 2019 detailing the negative elements of the reform, outlined below:

1. Lack of fluoride requirement

Firstly, COFAQUI points out that the concept of artisanal salt was added, which should be fortified with iodine, yet fluoride fortification is not a requirement. Stating that this “puts the population at risk”​, Cano details that it does so because this “type of salt has significant consumption in the country and fluoride deficiencies contribute to dental diseases and osteoporosis, among others”​.

2.​ Elimination of unfortified salt

The concept of unfortified salt was also eliminated as part of the reform, “leaving the door open to any breach of the fortification”,​ Cano voiced.

3. Lack of fortification requirements for special salts

The concepts of special salts were added, including low sodium, salt with species and flavored salt. However, these salts have no fortification requirements, which is “worrying because although in terms of nutritional aspects they are not adequate, studies have shown that more than 65% of the population uses artificial seasonings”.​ Salt, therefore, is an “important source”​ of iodine.

4. Elimination of animal consumption

As the concept of salt for animal consumption was eliminated, its requirement of fortification has therefore been removed too. Describing this decision as “worrying”,​ Cano explains that “although it is not correct”​, it has been shown that “the population consumes this type of salt”​.

Regardless, Cano asserted “a communication and education campaign must first be carried out before eliminating the fortification of this food”​.

5. Gaps in agreement

Concepts relating to fortifiers, primary containers and secondary containers were also eliminated which “leaves gaps in the agreement”​.

Communicating the need for change

Salt producers, within the small and medium business sector, are currently involved in an association of salt producers, which contributes to influences impacting the need for salt fortification regulations in Guatemala.

Outlining the actions these salt producers have taken, Cano explained they “have expressed their willingness to comply with the fortification of salt with iodine and fluoride; however, they have support needs that have not been fulfilled so far.”

“The reforms show that a sector of salt producers has pressured the Ministry of Health, however, it is not clear who are the authors of this,”​ Cano added.

Urgent reform plan in place

Commenting on whether the position in salt fortification will change, Cano answers: “Yes, because now the need to reformulate the agreement is in the hands of the institutions that were present on the 18th December 2019 in a meeting with the Ministry of Health.”

The meeting was attended by the College of Pharmacists and Chemists of Guatemala, the Dental Association and the Endocrinology Guild, INCAP; and the invitation is open for another institution to contribute technically.

At this meeting, the parties agreed to continue this issue through a technical table to urgently write an appropriate reform by 20th December 2019, Cano explained.

“It is urgent because the new government takes office on 14th January 2020 and there exists the risk of stopping or lengthening this process,”​ Cano concluded.

Related topics: Regulation

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