Last updated on 16 June 2008

Retail survey of iodine in UK produced dairy foods

Food Survey Information Sheet 02/08


The Food Standards Agency has conducted a survey to establish the concentrations of iodine in UK produced dairy foods and seaweed.

The aim of this survey was to provide an indication of the concentrations of iodine levels in dairy foods and seaweed from the UK in order to estimate dietary exposure to iodine from key food groups, to identify any food safety concerns and to inform possible future European Commission negotiations on this topic.

Key facts

Iodine was measured in 350 samples of UK produced dairy foods and seaweed, including 160 samples of milk (cow, goat and sheep), 50 of eggs (duck, goose, hen and quail), 50 cheese samples, 50 yoghurt and 40 commercial seaweeds, collected from all over the UK.

The levels of iodine found were generally in a similar range to those reported from previous surveys. Goats’ and sheep’s milk; and seaweed were analysed for iodine for the first time in this survey.

Seaweed contained the highest concentration of iodine. Goats’ and sheep’s milk contained higher concentrations of iodine than cows’ milk.

Estimated exposures to iodine have been compared with recommended guidelines, where available. The levels found in this survey are consistent with those of the 1997–2000 surveys, where applicable, for which the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) concluded that the estimated total dietary intake of iodine based on the 1997 Total Diet Study are unlikely to pose a risk to health.

As with previous surveys, young children consuming above average amounts of cows’ milk could exceed the recommended guideline for exposure. However, the COT concluded in 2000 that the concentrations of iodine in cows’ milk are unlikely to pose a risk to health, even in those children who are high level consumers.

In the case of goats’ and sheep’s milk, the iodine levels reported were higher than those for cows’ milk. Estimates of iodine intake from goats’ and sheep’s milk indicate that toddlers may exceed the recommended guideline. However, relatively few samples of these milks were tested and therefore the results cannot be regarded as statistically significant. In the absence of information on actual levels of goats’ and sheep milk consumption, it was assumed that milk from these species is consumed in similar quantities to cows’ milk; this assumption leads to a significant overestimation of iodine intake from goats’ and sheep’s milk which in practice, is unlikely to be sustained over long periods in a life-time. The actual exposure of toddlers to iodine from goats’ and sheep’s milk is thus likely to be lower than reported.

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