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KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 30 — The recent directive by the Health Ministry mandating that iodine must be added to salt has been met with protests from sundry goods dealers who complained the five-day notice given was too short.
The Federation of Sundry Goods Merchants Association of Malaysia said the whole supply chain of the salt industry has difficulty complying with the directive issued on September 25 and which is supposed to be effective today.
“The manufacturers need to be given time to produce salts that meet the requirement and change the labelling for the packaging. Importers also need time to obtain shipments that match the requirements,” its president Hong Chee Meng said in a statement today.
The federation represents over 4,000 sundry shop owners in the country.
Hong added the other problem is the tonnes of salts stored in the warehouses of manufacturers, importers and distributors nationwide, which would need to be re-processed to be added with iodine.
“While we take note that the government has stated the regulation was gazetted in 2018, it is very regrettable that there has not been any communication to the market nor any consultation with the supply chain and retailers to properly communicate this change until five days ago.
“This announcement has taken many businesses in the salt industry by surprise and the businesses and retailers are not prepared for it. There are a lot of confusion in the market at the moment since this announcement was made,” he said.
Hong said the federation is worried the market will face a shortage of salt nationwide within the next few days as wholesalers and retailers will have to stop selling salts without iodine to avoid facing the penalty, and wait for the products that meet the requirements to come into market which takes time.
“We are not against this move by the government to require iodine to be added to salt. However, the industry needs time to be able to comply with this requirement, so we request the government to have this requirement take effect starting on January 1, 2021.
“The government should also consider the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on sundry shop owners, in addition to this directive. The requirement will not only burden many businesses due to the extremely short notice, but also cause businesses to lose revenue as there will be a period where businesses will not be able to sell a daily essential item for consumers until products that meet the requirement are ready to be supplied,” he said.
Hong said the federation is prepared to meet with the ministry to explain the difficulties that they are facing and find a solution for all parties.
“A submission will be made today to the Health Ministry and other relevant ministries on this issue and we hope the government will give us time to comply with this requirement,” Hong said.
Last Friday, Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham said the directive is part of the ministry’s initiative to tackle iodine deficiency in the country, following a nationwide study on iodine deficiency disorders which revealed that 48.2 per cent of school-going children aged eight to 10 suffered from a lack of iodine, and 2.1 per cent of children suffer from goitre or the enlarging of the thyroid gland.
The directive has been realised through amendments made to the Food Regulations 1985’s Regulation 285, and require iodine be added to fine sale or salt weighing 20kg and below, prior to sale.
Those found guilty of not complying with the amended regulation face an RM10,000 fine or two years’ imprisonment.