Experts in Tajikistan are concerned about the high level of consumption of non-iodized salt by the population of the republic. Studies show that about half of the population in Dushanbe, the southern Khatlon region and areas of Central Tajikistan regularly use non-iodized salt for food. As doctors say, iodine deficiency diseases widespread in the country pose a direct threat to the intellectual potential of the nation, the birth of genetically healthy offspring.
Tajikistan is located in the so-called endemic zone, that is, iodine is practically absent in water and soil. Every year tens of thousands of new cases of thyroid disease are detected in the country. According to a study by international organizations, more than half of women and two thirds of children in Tajikistan suffer from iodine deficiency. “If a pregnant woman does not receive iodine, then a neural tube responsible for mental development can form incorrectly in her fetus. Every year 170-175 thousand children are born in Tajikistan. 30% of these children have a high risk of being born with iodine deficiency, that is, they can be born with a neural tube defect. And this means that the child will be mentally retarded, to put it bluntly - a nerd, ”explains the country coordinator of the Japan Poverty Reduction Fund's Regional Project (JFPR) for sustainable food fortification in Central Asia and Mongolia Abdusal Vohidov.
The problem has become so acute that in December 2002, the Law “On Universal Iodization of Salt” was adopted, providing for measures to provide the population of the Republic of Tajikistan with iodized salt. According to experts, this is the easiest and most affordable way to reduce iodine deficiency in the country. According to this law, only iodized salt produced by plants that have a special state license is subject to sale to the population. In accordance with the requirements of state standards (GOST), the salt must be packaged in kilogram cellophane packaging bags. However, in many retail outlets, salt is sold by weight or in fake packages.
Currently, there are 4 plants for the production of iodized salt in Tajikistan. Their total production capacity in recent years fully covers the need for salt in the country's population, and this is 32 thousand tons per year. That is, iodized salt in the country abound. Why does such a high percentage of Tajiks consume non-iodized salt?
As this situation is explained by Abdusalom Vokhidov, in a number of areas of republican subordination and Khatlon region (Vose, Hamadoni, Temurmalik, Gissar), local residents have free access to the natural mountains of sodium chloride. “The population of these areas just goes and collects iodized salt directly from the hill with buckets. Not only do they take it for themselves, they also take it to other regions, ”says the project coordinator. Indeed, why buy salt at 60-70 dirams per kilogram (about 20 cents), if you can recruit it for free, and even earn extra money?
Non-iodized salt is sold by private entrepreneurs to low-cost packaging companies. According to Saodat Abdullayeva, head of the state supervision of standards and quality of products in the agricultural complex of the TajikStandart Agency, large quantities of salt that does not contain or contains an insufficient percentage of iodine are withdrawn from sales. Often such products are falsified. It can be identified by marking - the address of the company indicated on the package in this case is “fake”, and the company itself is not registered anywhere.
However, not iodized salt is sent for sale not only by private entrepreneurs or underground workshops. Abdullayeva says that almost all legally operating packing companies violate the conditions of transportation, storage and packing of salt, as a result of which the iodine content in it decreases. Moreover, these firms themselves are mixed into the non-iodized salt in the factory, which they buy from private traders at lower prices. As a result of a recent inspection of the Sadbarg wholesale market in Dushanbe, several batches of salt, packaged by the legally operating enterprises of Guli Kuksor LLC and Ganchina LLC, were rejected.
Details of companies violating the inspectors are known. But, according to Abdullaeva, there is no Tajik "rule" on them. The agency does not have the authority to prohibit the activities of enterprises engaged in the packaging of salt, it can only fine the offender, and in the case of non-payment of the fine - to sue him. This is exactly what the Agency did with respect to the aforementioned firm LLC “Ganchin”. However, these measures do not frighten unscrupulous businessmen. Salt still does not meet quality standards.
“Over the last 4 years, I regularly travel to Khatlon region and hold meetings with the population, communities, local authorities of those areas where there are deposits of salt. I ask them not to eat salt, which is literally under their feet, and I recommend reducing at least a kilogram of the monthly amount of poison called “sugar”, and with this money you can buy an extra 3 kilograms of iodized salt, ”says the director of scientific Research Institute of Nutrition of the Republic of Tajikistan Jahongir Azonov.
In his opinion, iodine deficiency poses a serious threat to the health of the nation, and therefore this problem requires decision-making at the state level. Azonov considers it necessary to create, under the government of the country, a Public Committee on Control over the provision of the population with iodized salt, which would consolidate work in this direction of a number of state structures. Thus, the State Traffic Inspectorate should prevent unauthorized removal of salt from deposits, and the Sanitary and Epidemiological Inspectorate should be given greater authority in exercising control over the production and packaging of the product. In addition, there should be a regular delivery of salt to the most separated villages of Tajikistan. And, of course, it is necessary to raise the level of understanding of the problem by the population, to work with schoolchildren, teachers, clergymen.
At the same time, other experts believe that the problem can be solved quite quickly if you distribute iodized salt to the population for free. Moreover, the cost of its production is so scanty that even a poor state like Tajikistan could well bear these costs.
More than 1 billion inhabitants of the earth live in places with low iodine content in the biosphere (water, soil, air, food). As a result of this deficiency, 200 million people develop an enlargement of the thyroid gland (endemic goiter), 20 million develop mental retardation against the background of thyroid hormone insufficiency.
It has been established that the high prevalence of endemic goiter among schoolchildren leads to a decrease in cognitive abilities by 15%. At the conclusion of the World Health Organization, overcoming this problem could be the most significant achievement of world health, exceeding in importance the eradication of smallpox on the globe.