May 10, 2006

China has way to go to eradicate iodine deficiency

BEIJING (Reuters) - China still has a way to go to
eradicate iodine deficiency because of difficulties in
fortifying salt in some remote regions, the health ministry
said on Wednesday.

Lack of iodine causes neck goiters and mental retardation
and more than 700 million Chinese live in iodine-deficient

But over the past 50 years, a protracted government effort
has meant more than 90 percent of the population has access to
iodized salt, said ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an.

"Although on a national level we have eradicated iodine
deficiency, at the provincial and county level there is still a
large gap," Mao told a news conference.

The worst affected provinces and regions included Tibet,
Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu in the county's remote west, as
well as the island of Hainan, he said.

"In some areas, especially in the west, measures to fortify
salt with iodine have not been perfected," Mao added.

The Chinese government launched an iodine deficiency
program in 1993 to eliminate the problem by 2000. That plan has
now been extended to 2010.

Around 100 million Chinese people suffer from lack of
iodine, according to state media.

But in some iodine-deficient areas, people prefer using
raw, unfortified salt, which is making the fight harder and so
education needs to be stepped up, state media has said.