Iodine is a naturally occurring mineral and an essential nutrient for life. It is found in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Iodine is important for health, particularly for unborn babies and young children.
Since October 2009, regulations have required that non-iodised salt be replaced with iodised salt in all bread except organic bread and bread mixes for making bread at home. However, manufacturers can choose to add iodised salt to bread mixes if they wish. Additionally, salt-free breads will not contain iodised salt. This action was taken to address the re-emergence of deficiency in Australia and New Zealand.
Iodised salt can be used in other foods. This gives manufacturers an opportunity to create alternative iodine sources for people who don’t eat bread.
Iodised salt must be listed in the ingredient list of food labels. Unpackaged bread and bread that is made and/or packaged at the point of sale is not required to be labeled. However, this information may be available on request.
Based on all available scientific evidence, adding iodised salt to bread is safe for the whole population.
Mandatory iodine fortification is estimated to increase the average iodine intake of Australians by about 54 micrograms per day, similar to the amount of iodine in a large glass of milk. The increase in iodine is unlikely to cause harm even in iodine sensitive individuals.
FSANZ consulted with an expert advisory group throughout development of the regulation, and concluded that the risk of any adverse health effects from mandatory iodine fortification is very small across all groups.
Australian and New Zealand health authorities are monitoring the effectiveness of the increased amount of iodine in the food supply. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has the overall coordinating role for monitoring mandatory fortification.
A New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries report has found that the percentage of children estimated to have inadequate iodine intakes has dropped from 30% to 4% because of iodine fortification.