Author: Inva Hasanaliaj
“Black salt” is raw salt, which is taken directly from the salt production baths on the coast. It is called black because of the content of foreign elements, mainly and in addition to impurity, it does not even have the necessary amount of Iodine in its composition, a very important element for human health. For this reason, this type of salt has been banned by law from use in Albanian cuisine, for more than 12 years. Nevertheless, it continues and is still traded in our country. Albania has been a country that has suffered from iodine deficiency, for this reason black salt in 2008 was banned from being traded for human and animal use.
Only for 2019 the NFA (National Food Authority) has returned to its shipping origin 24 tons and disposed of 1.62 tons of salt from imports.
Pursuant to Law No. 9942, dated 26.6.2008 “On the prevention of disorders caused by iodine insufficiency in the human body” is made the return to origin of 24 tons were returned to the point of origin and 1.62 tons of salt were disposed of, according to the following table:
A year later, in 2020, the Minister of Health and Social Protection, Ms. Ogerta Manastirliu, during her speech in the National Assembly, said that for the first time work is being done on salt traceability in all stages, to guarantee a consumption of 100% iodized salt by consumers.
But has this stopped Albanians from trading uniodized salt, which is also used for cooking? In a survey the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism conducted at the main market of the city of Vlora, we saw that black salt was sold in plain sight like any other product, even breaking all food safety standards.
Following this observation, we asked the Ministry of Health if it was aware of the marketing of this product but we did not receive any answer.
On the other hand, we communicated with the National Food Authority to find out if controls were exercised on this issue during 2020 and what measures were taken against the entities that trade this product.
From the NFA’s response we learned that only in Tirana during 2020, controls were performed in 413 commercial entities and 207 cases were issued a warning, for deficiencies of minor importance. Also, according to this institution, from relevant directorates in Lezha, Berat, Fier, Durres, Kukes, Dibra, Korca, Vlora and Shkodra, during the inspections carried out according to the annual plan, or other inspections, no problems were found in connection with the marketing of the ‘Salt’ products.
What we notice from the information provided by the NFA, is that the control is exercised only in entities which are licensed as such for the processing and marketing of salt. The black market remains out of control. Although completely illegal, informal traders sell this product in city markets and no institution takes any steps to ban it.
What do specialists say about consuming non-iodized salt?
Jolanda Hyska, specialist at the Public Health Bureau, says that the damage caused by the lack of iodine in the body is different for different ages. In adults it causes weakness, rapid fatigue, decreased ability to work, reduced physical activity and decreased level of intelligence. In pregnant women it causes miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths, low birth weight babies with little chance of survival, children born with deformities, etc.
“Pregnant women and young children need more iodine than others for the normal development of the baby’s brain and body. For babies the only source of iodine is the mother. “Mothers who breastfeed their children are the only and sufficient source of iodine for the baby if they get enough iodine.” – Hyska concludes.
Albanians have had a lack of iodine in the body, not because of the lack of salt, but because they have historically consumed raw and uniodized salt. The amount of Iodine, according to doctors, is not supplemented by consuming more salt, but by consuming the salt that contains the necessary amount of Iodine.
For urologist Artan Koni, the Albanian consumer is an excessive salt consumer. This comes not only from the geographical area where we live, but also from the food tradition across our families. According to Dr. Koni, excessive consumption of salt causes various problems in the human body. Excess salt accumulates large amounts of water in the body, increasing blood pressure. Increased blood pressure causes problems with a number of organs in the body, starting with the heart, kidneys, eyes, liver, etc.
According to INSTAT only for 2019, deaths from group-diseases in the circulatory system account for 53.4% of total deaths. This group of diseases continues to be the leading cause of death, with a mortality rate of 410.0 per 100 thousand inhabitants and compared to the previous year there has been an increase of 0.9%.
Table 1. Main causes of disseminated deaths by group of diseases (ICD Classification 9 *)
“Salt consumption should be significantly reduced. All age groups are affected by excessive salt consumption. In other words, narrowing of the veins or crystals in the kidneys take years to form, but they give clinical signs usually in people over 50 years old. If you consume a lot of salt throughout your youth, you can be sure that you will have health problems when you reach the age of 50. ”- concludes Dr. Koni.