The government ponders fluorine in salts
By John Liu, The China Post
June 12, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- With the high occurrence of cavities in the nation's teeth, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) is studying the feasibility of adding fluorine, known for its cavity prevention effect, to table salts.
Tooth decay was so common in Taiwan last year that the National Health Insurance doled out NT$16.3 billion in total to compensate for cavity-related expenses.
Statistics show that children under the age of 12 visit dentists to fill cavities twice per year on average. These children have on average 2.5 decayed teeth, which is much higher than the 1.67 average in 189 other countries. Taiwan ranks 2nd among the 34 OECD countries. In addition, data shows that up to 79 percent of Taiwan's children under five have cavities.
MHW chief Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) has instructed competent authorities to investigate the feasibility of including fluorine in table salts in an effort to ease the prevalent tooth decay problem in Taiwan.
The MHW recently invited members of the nation's dentistry association to a meeting studying the fluorine inclusion proposal. Attendants said they would support it so long as a thorough analysis conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proves the practice safe and appropriate.
Switzerland, Germany and several other countries in Europe and the Americas have included fluorine in table salts in order to alleviate tooth decay problems, according to the MHW. The practice is also recommended by the World Health Organization.
If the policy is put into place, businesses will not be obligated to add fluorine to their salts, but they will be encouraged to do so and label it accordingly, the MOHW said, adding that the businesses will need to apply to the FDA in advance.
Research shows that adding fluorine into table salts can reduce the cavity rate by 50 to 70 percent.
Besides adding fluorine into table salts to reduce cavity rates, some countries have added the element in drinking water. These countries include the U.S., New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada.