Accra, Feb. 7, GNA - Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director General of the Ghana Health Services (GHS), on Monday warned that it was criminal to produce and sell non-iodised salt for human consumption.
"Your activities are clear violation of the Food and Drugs Amendment Act, Act 523 of 1996, which requires that all salt for human and animal consumption should be fortified with iodine to alleviate nutritional deficiency," he said.
Prof. Akosa at a press briefing in Accra said it was expected that all salt produced in the country be fully iodised by the end of March 2005.
He said an intensive programme to arrest and prosecute defaulters would be effective by April with the collaboration of stakeholders, including the Police, Customs, Excise and Preventive Service, GPRTU and Environmental Health Inspectors.
Prof. Akosa stated that it was very important for Ghana as a major West African salt producer to adhere to the commitment made by ECOWAS member countries at the UN Special Session for children to achieve the goal of sustained elimination of Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) by the year 2005.
He explained that iodine, which is a mineral element, was a requisite for proper brain development, function and maintenance of body temperature and energy.
Prof. Akosa said iodine deficiency in the diet of pregnant women therefore caused severe and irreversible damage to the brain of the foetus and contributed to frequent miscarriages, stillbirth, low birth weight and high infant deaths.
Further, it could cause mental impairment, growth failure, sluggishness, hearing impairment as well speech retardation and poor vision as well as very low intelligent quotient in growing children. "Iodine deficiency in adults leads to goitre, reduced mental function, lack of energy, tiredness leading to low productivity," he said.
Prof. Akosa said the GHS in collaboration with UNICEF and all other stakeholders had resorted to achieving a Universal Salt Iodisation (USI) by the end of 2005, to enhance the economic development of the nation.
He noted that the USI was one of the cheapest and most effective ways of improving the lives of children and Ghana was committed to reaching the international target of at least 90 per cent coverage. Prof. Akosa stated that though salt iodation started in Ghana in 1995 there was more to be done as most districts, including the Northern Region, Hohoe, Kwahu South, Adansi West and Nkwanta continued to record high cases of goitre.
He said a 2003 survey indicated that only 44 per cent of household had access to iodised salt, a drop from the 50 per cent level recorded in a 2002 survey.
He said increasing iodated salt production or consumption was, however, a behaviour change that required sustained communication about its socio-economic benefits.
Prof. Akosa said a communication strategy would be designed and implemented to provide clear information on the importance of iodated salt to increase demand and consumption.
Mr. Ben Botwe, Deputy Chief Executive, Food and Drugs Board, said it was obvious that though much awareness on the advantages of iodated salt had been created, reported cases of poor household coverage still existed.
He said Ghana could further expand its production under the President's Special Initiative on salt to about two million metric tons a year as the major supplier of salt to a number of ECOWAS states. He called on all stakeholders to support the programme to ensure its success. 07 Feb. 05