Governments in India scaling up use of double-fortified salt

woman and baby in Gujarat

Delhi, INDIA – States in India have been scaling up the use of double-fortified salt in an effort to combat iron and iodine deficiencies. In 2018, the governments of both Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh made double-fortified salt available through the public food distribution system. In Tamil Nadu, double-fortified salt has been distributed to school children in their mid-day meals since 2004.

Double-fortified salt delivers small but crucial daily amounts of iodine and iron. Iodine is critical, particularly for pregnant women and young children, to ensure successful brain development. Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency in the world and the cause of half of all anaemia cases, a condition which reduces energy levels and limits a person’s ability to fully participate in their family and community.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also promoted the use of double-fortified salt, lauding it as an effective way to fulfill the goal of ‘Anemia Mukt Bharat,’ or an Anaemia-Free India. While speaking to frontline health workers in September 2018, Prime Minister Modi encouraged them to spread awareness about the use of double-fortified salt to combat anaemia.

To help the government roll out the product and encourage its consumption, Nutrition International (NI) developed a comprehensive behaviour change communication strategy based on formative research. Toolkits and educational materials have been created to introduce the public to the benefits of consuming double-fortified salt. NI has also helped state governments establish quality control and quality assurance protocols, including training of government staff at the state, district and block levels.

“The cost-effectiveness of salt as a medium to supply micronutrients is well-established and the introduction of double-fortified salt is a significant step to make women, adolescent girls and young children healthy,” said Sucharita Dutta, NI’S Country Director for India. “We are committed to stand alongside the government to support this initiative and ensure everyone in the state is able to lead healthier and more productive lives.”

In Madhya Pradesh, where nearly 70 per cent of children between the ages of 6 to 59 months and 52 per cent of women between the ages of 15 to 49 years suffer from anaemia, double-fortified salt is now available to over 12 million people across 20 districts, at a highly subsidized price of one rupee per kilogram.

In the state of Gujarat, double-fortified salt will be used for making hot cooked meals in all anganwadi, or government-run nutrition centres. In addition, all adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women will receive one kilogram of double-fortified salt each month. This program will protect 370,000 beneficiaries, including adolescent girls, women and children, from anaemia and iodine deficiency disorders.

Double-fortified salt is an innovative scientific breakthrough developed over 15 years by researchers at the University of Toronto in cooperation with NI, with financial support from Global Affairs Canada (then the Canadian International Development Agency) and the World Bank.