Iodine fortification of plant-based dairy and fish alternatives: the effect of substitution on iodine intake based on a market survey in the UK

Katie Nicol, Eva-Leanne Thomas, Anne P. Nugent, Jayne V. Woodsid , Kathryn H. Hart and Sarah C. Bath
British Journal of Nutrition
Resource type:
Reports and discussion papers

Milk, dairy products, and fish are the main sources of iodine in the UK. Plant-based products are increasingly popular, especially with young women, which may affect iodine intake as they are naturally low in iodine; this is concerning as iodine is required for fetal brain development. The authors aimed to:

(i) assess the iodine fortification of products sold as alternatives to milk, yoghurt, cheese and fish through a cross-sectional survey of UK retail outlets in 2020, and

(ii) model the impact of substitution with such products on iodine intake, using portion-based scenarios.

They identified 300 products, including plant-based alternatives to: (i) milk (n 146); (ii) yoghurt (n 76); (iii) cheese (n 67) and (iv) fish (n 11).

After excluding organic products (n 48), which cannot be fortified, only 28 % (n 29) of milk alternatives and 6 % (n 4) of yoghurt alternatives were fortified with iodine, compared with 88 % (n 92) and 73 % (n 51), respectively, with Ca. No cheese alternative was fortified with iodine, but 55 % were fortified with Ca. None of the fish alternatives were iodine fortified. Substitution of three portions of dairy product (milk/yoghurt/ cheese) per day with unfortified alternatives would reduce the iodine provided by 97·9 % (124 v. 2·6 μg) and substantially reduce the contribution to the adult intake recommendation (150 μg/d; 83 v. 1·8 %).

The tudy highlights that the majority of plant-based alternatives are not iodine fortified and that the use of unfortified alternatives put consumers at risk of iodine deficiency. 


Photo by Julia Filirovska/Pexels 

This resource has been peer reviewed