Proposals to make iodine fortification mandatory in the country were first made in 2006, when the authority Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) called bread made in the country to contain between 35 to 55 mg of iodine per kg of salt. Iodine is essential for human health because of its importance in thyroid development, and deficiency in the nutrient has been linked to reduced cognitive, ability, hearing and motor skills. Regulation Now that the proposals have been approved, bakers in the country will from now on have to 'iodise' their products by replacing non-iodised salt with an iodised form of the product, "a simple and low cost way of increasing the iodine content of a range of foods," FSZANZ said. Bakers have until September 2009 to comply with the new regulation to allow time to make the necessary manufacturing and labelling changes, FSANZ said. However, organic products and unleavened bread, such as pita and tortilla, are exempt. Iodine consumption Jenny Reid, spokesperson for FSANZ, said yesterday the regulations were passed as iodine consumption in the country is dropping, "with New Zealanders' levels now far lower than those of people in other nations." One of the main reasons for the drop is consumers eating less salt, one of the main sources of iodine, FSANZ said. As in other first world countries, consumers in New Zealand are increasingly being encouraged to cut salt out of their diets as it has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. However, fresh produce and grains grown domestically have a much lower level of the nutrient than those in other countries, thanks to the particular condition of New Zealand soil, she claimed. Reid encouraged people to eat foods that are naturally rich in iodine and low in salt, such as seafood, milk and milk products, eggs and seameal custard - a traditional New Zealand dessert. Resistance However, many New Zealand bakers have been voicing their concerns over fortifying bread with iodine ever since the proposals were first put forth two years ago. The New Zealand Bakery Association yesterday warned the new regulation will be expensive, claiming there are not a lot of facilities to process iodised salt in the country. Spokeswoman Annette Campbell told new channel TVNZ that the packaging on bread products will now have to be changed, which would also add millions onto their manufacturing bills. The association believes that bakers will be forced to pass these costs on to consumers, she added.