Health Minister Yael German – while unwilling to change her recent decision to
cancel the nationwide requirement of municipalities and towns to fluoridate
their drinking water since only a small percentage of the population needs it –
is willing to consider fortification of foods to improve public
In a personal interview on Sunday with The Jerusalem Post, the
former mayor of Herzliya said she had a more positive view of adding nutrients
to food than to tap water.
When it was suggested that vitamin D be added
to all milk and white cheeses (at present, the important vitamin is added only
to one-percent-fat milk), iodine be added to salt and folic acid to flour,
German said she would speak to ministry director- general Prof. Ronni Gamzu and
other experts about it.
Leading public health experts note that vitamin D
helps prevent many diseases, ranging from various types of cancer and heart
disease to diabetes and osteoporosis.
Iodized salt is widely used around
the world to prevent types of mental retardation and promote the biosynthesis of
thyroxine and triiodothyronine hormones by the thyroid gland.
deficiency is a major cause of neural tube disorders that lead to retardation,
death and low birth weight in fetuses and a wide variety of other problems in
children and adults.
The Palestinian Authority has for some time
fortified salt with iodine and flour with folic acid, but until now the ministry
in Jerusalem has not done so.
The minister said she was well aware that
health promotion and disease prevention were urgently needed because health
systems around the world will go bankrupt from trying to treat an aging
population for all chronic disease.
As for the idea that enforcement of
no-smoking laws be transferred from the municipalities – which throughout the
country last year handed out only 2,500 fines despite the estimated millions of
annual violations – to a private company, German said she thought privatization
of enforcement, with part of the proceeds going to the ministry to finance
health promotion and education, was a good idea, but she worried about legal
problems that could make it impossible for inspectors who do not work for the
government to hand out fines. However, she agreed to look into the
German said that decades of tap water fluoridation is “wasteful
because only about 2 percent of fresh water is actually drunk by
She maintained that there are better ways of delivering
fluoride – which has been proven to protect and preserve the dental health of
children – than through the water supply, and stated that “thyroid disease” and
other diseases could result from exposing the whole population to
German’s cancellation of mandatory fluoridation aroused much
opposition by public health experts both outside and within her
“It may be that it was a mistake to do it for 30 years,” she
Asked about the raging controversy on whether private medical
services (Sharap) should be allowed in government and Clalit Health Services
hospitals, German said she had a “neutral view and open mind” about it and
wanted to hear the recommendations of a public committee on the subject that she
Regarding the possibility of allowing physicians’
assistants and nurse practitioners to receive licenses in Israel to ease the
severe manpower shortage of both doctors and nurses, German said she thought
paramedics could be trained more to help in emergency medicine in the
But when she heard that Gamzu had recently voiced positive
opinions about these medical personnel, the minister said she would speak to