Prime Minister Hun Sen reaffirmed the government’s commitment to increasing the country’s use of iodized salt at a ceremony in Phnom Penh on Wednesday .
Attended by government officials and hundreds of school children, the ceremony was held to mark the first anniversary of the government’s subdecree on the Management of Exploitation of Iodized Salt, which aims to have 90 percent of the population using iodized salt by 2007.
A wide array of health issues have been linked to a lack of dietary iodine—problems like wide-spread mental retardation, stillbirths and miscarriages have been linked to it in countries like Cambodia, where iodized salt has long been a rarity.
In October 2003, when the sub-decree was issued, the government found only 14 percent of the population was using iodized salt.
But Puth Chandarith, governor of Kampot province, the nation’s salt-making capital, estimated Wednesday that the number of Cambodians using iodized salt had risen to an astonishing 50 percent over the past year.
“I believe that 100 percent of [Kampot’s iodized] salt is sold to consumers,” he said. “But I don’t know about imported salt.”
Although Hun Sen did not specify the current rate of Cambodians using iodized salt in his speech Wednesday, he did note that it was lower than neighboring Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
“The government believes that the low usage of iodized salt is a main obstacle in developing human resources,” Hun Sen said.
He called for an end to imports of salt without iodine and said that Cambodian salt producers would increase production of iodized salt to 65,000 tons per year.
Puth Chandarith said Kampot produced about 120,000 tons of salt this year, more than enough for the country’s needs. Only 27,000 tons of it was iodized, the governor said, because although the government donated the necessary machinery, salt producers are often missing the key ingredient—iodine powder.