Micronutrient Initiative President Named Tech Awards Laureate for Creation of Double Fortified Salt

Venkatesh Mannar among 15 innovators from around the world recognized for applying technology to benefit humanity

Children eat a lunch of rice, boiled eggs and sambhar, a lentil dish prepared using double fortified salt (DFS), a special kind of salt that contains both iron and iodine, two micronutrients that are critical for mental and physical development.

Children eat a lunch of rice, boiled eggs and sambhar, a lentil dish prepared using double fortified salt (DFS), a special kind of salt that contains both iron and iodine, two micronutrients that are critical for mental and physical development.

Venkatesh Mannar, President of the Ottawa-based Micronutrient Initiative, was named today as a Laureate of The Tech Awards 2010. Mannar´s work in creating Double Fortified Salt, which delivers both iodine and iron, is being recognized as an innovation that could spark global change by reducing intellectual disabilities and anaemia. In populations consuming sufficient iodine, IQ levels are shown to be 13 points higher than populations deficient in iodine. Currently, iodine deficiency is the world´s leading cause of preventable mental impairment, affecting an estimated 18 million babies each year. Iron-deficiency anaemia, the most wide-spread nutritional deficiency, can have life-long effects on a child´s cognitive development and learning abilities and puts women at greater risk of death during childbirth.

Mannar was selected as one of 15 global innovators from among hundreds of nominees representing more than 50 countries.

The Tech Awards – a signature program of the California-based Tech Museum – is one of the premier annual humanitarian awards programs in the world. The awards recognize technical solutions that benefit humanity and address the most critical issues facing our planet and its people. Mannar´s work is being recognized in the health category.

Double Fortified Salt delivers small but crucial daily amounts of iodine and iron to human beings at a very low cost. Iodine is critical for brain development and iron is critical for mental and physical ability. Prior to Mannar´s work, iron could not be added to iodized salt because the properties in the two nutrients cancelled each other out when combined.

Mannar worked for more than 15 years with colleagues at the Micronutrient Initiative and University of Toronto Food Engineer Levente Diosady to develop a way the nutrients could be added together and still retain their life-enhancing properties. Already millions of school-children in Tamil Nadu, India are benefiting from Double Fortified Salt through a mid-day meal program, providing them with increased energy for learning.

“It´s an honour that The Tech Awards has recognized the potential of Double Fortified Salt to improve the lives of the world´s vulnerable,” said Mannar. “Poor diets lead to devastating micronutrient deficiencies and stop children, families and communities from reaching their full potential. Providing an easy, low-cost way to ensuring consumption of essential iodine and iron can make great strides toward reducing global malnutrition and improving health, educational opportunities and economic productivity. The nutrients in Double Fortified Salt are well distributed within each meal, further promoting absorption.”

“The global challenges of the day have become increasingly strident, more deeply rooted,” said Peter Friess, president of The Tech Museum. “Still, there is hope. These incredibly impressive Laureates have all proven to be equal to, or better than, the challenge to make the world a better place. By celebrating their accomplishments today, we are encouraging future innovators to work toward solutions to make the world healthier, safer and more sustainable.”

One Laureate in each of the five categories of health, education, equality, environment and economic development will receive a $50,000 cash prize during the annual Awards Gala in Santa Clara, California on November 6. The selected Laureates´ projects address multiple humanitarian efforts including innovations in land irrigation and the generation of electricity, the creation of free educational tools, and Mannar´s work to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies through Double Fortified Salt.