DARAGA, Albay – Consumers of manufactured or processed food products will soon be looking for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Diamond Sangkap Pinoy Seal (DSPS) reflected on labels of the commodities they are buying.
This seal will reassure them that what they are buying and consuming are manufactured according to national standard on good nutrition.
Towards this end, the Department of Health (DOH) regional office in Bicol is encouraging local food manufacturers to comply with the requirements of the FDA for them to be allowed to use the new seal dubbed as “Saktong Iodine sa Asin”, meaning, the product is fortified with adequately-iodized salt.
The DSPS, according to DOH Regional Director Emilia Monicimpo, is the seal of good nutrition quality awarded to FDA-licensed manufacturers who fortify their products according to iodization standards.
She said using the seal on the label also reassures consumers that the product is manufactured and fortified within the national standards as prescribed in Republic Act (RA) 8976 or the Philippine Food Fortification Act of 2000 and RA 8172 or the ASIN Law (Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide) of 1995.
RA 8976, which recognizes the nutritional problems in the Philippines, mandates food fortification as vital “to increase the intake of an essential nutrient by one or more population groups, as manifested in dietary, biochemical or clinical evidences of deficiency.”
The ASIN Law, on the other hand, was enacted “to protect and promote the health of the people, to maintain an effective food regulatory system and to provide the entire population, especially women and children with proper nutrition” by way of promoting nutritional fortification of food to combat micronutrient malnutrition.
Monicimpo said the “Saktong Iodine sa Asin” standard implied by the new seal is developed mainly to strengthen and revitalize the existing DSPS used in the food product labels and to increase awareness and use of adequately-iodized salt in households and points of purchase.
This quality seal will serve as guide to consumers in identifying and purchasing products that carry with it good nutrition, she said.
The FDA, along with the National Nutrition Council (NCC), recently launched in Bicol the campaign in promoting the use of the “Saktong Iodine sa Asin” seal among local manufacturers, importers, distributors, repackers and traders.
In the launch held in the city, Monicimpo said on Wednesday that NCC representative Julius Cesar Alejandre announced that the seal will be awarded by the FDA to manufacturers of staple foods, including rice, sugar, cooking oil, flour and salt who fortify their products with iodine within the national standards.
These products, when adequately fortified, will increase the micronutrient intake of the population, particularly the groups at risk, and help eliminate the problem of micronutrient malnutrition in the country, Alejandre stressed, adding that the adequately-iodized salt quality seal has been developed to strengthen and revitalize the existing seal used on the labels.
According to Monicimpo, products that would carry the DSPS “Saktong Iodine sa Asin” logo are those that use salt bearing iodine at 30-70ppm (part per million).
She explained that ppm is a measure expressing the amount of concentration of a substance to something which in the case of iodine on salt, one ppm is equivalent to one milligram per million milligrams of salt.
The FDA has noted that the drive on iodine-fortified salt and products has since been going on to address iodine deficiency – a major public health problem in the Philippines, iodine being an important micronutrient needed by the body to achieve optimum mental and physical development.
Monicimpo said DOH studies show that iodine helps boost learning and intelligence wherein populations with adequate iodine intake have as much as 15 IQ (intellectual quotient) points higher than those with inadequate intake.
On the other hand, the 2013 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) showed that among six-12 years old children, 16.4 percent have mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency, which is an improvement from 2008 NNS of 19.7 per cent owing to the implantation of the salt fortification law, she said.
The same survey, however, revealed that the proportion of households using iodized salt is only 71 per cent, of which only 25 per cent is using adequately-iodized salt, explaining why there has been a continuing existence of iodine deficiency disorders across the vulnerable target population that includes pregnant women, lactating women and young children.
Monicimpo said iodine deficiency, which although can be easily and economically addressed through salt iodization, is also being blamed for low birth weight, stillbirth, abortion, cretinism, underdevelopment and mental and physical retardation.
Salt, she said, is the best medium for delivering iodine because most people have access and eat this commodity in small quantities every day, enough to achieve the required iodine intake and with the revitalized campaign on universal salt iodization.
DOH targets 90 per cent of households nationwide using adequately iodized salt and fortified products by 2016.
In the first place, the DoH regional chief said, the ASIN Law requires all salt for human and animal consumption be adequately iodized, that is why FDA has come up with this “Saktong Iodine sa Asin” seal to see to it that the 30-70 ppm iodine on salt is complied with.
While the DOH has noted that salt distributed in the Bicol market is either poorly iodized or not iodized at all, she said several factors, among them the lack of monitoring by regulatory agencies considering the layers of trading and complex supply distribution modalities, contribute to this unfavorable situation.
For now, Monicimpo said her agency is urging local government units (LGUs) in the region to pass and implement ordinances on iodized salt distribution in their respective localities with penalty provisions on violators in place, and to allow the DoH regional Bantay Asin Task Force to be actively involved in the monitoring of salt distribution activities.
“We are also encouraging LGUs to cooperate with the FDA in ensuring that local salt producers and distributors comply with the iodization standards. We are also advising the public that the next time they buy table salt, they should look for ‘Saktong Iodine sa Asin’ seal on packages and even on the sacks of salt being retailed in the local markets,” she added.