According to the most recent report of the Selenium Working Group coordinated by the Agrifood Research Finland MTT, the selenium intake among the Finns is at a sufficient level. This is due to the supplementation of fertilisers with selenium, which increases the selenium content in domestic feedingstuffs and foods to the target level. The results presented in the report show that selenium fertilisation is an efficient and safe way to secure sufficient selenium intake at a reasonable cost.
The average selenium intake of the Finnish population is about 0.8mg/day/10 MJ, which is in line with the nutrition recommendations. The main sources of selenium are milk and meat, which account for about 70% f the daily intake. In the 2000s the average serum selenium content has been 1.4 µmol/l, which is higher than in the rest of Europe.
Selenium is an important trace element in human nutrition. It is needed for growth and reproduction as well as for maintaining heart and muscular health. The best known disease caused by selenium shortage is muscular degeneration in domestic animals.
In Finland selenium has been added to fertilisers since 1984, as studied had shown that the selenium intake of both humans and domestic animals was too low. Because of the environmental conditions the level of soluble selenium in the Finnish soil is very low: only about 4% of the total soil selenium is in a form that is usable for the plants. The plants take the sodium selenate added to the fertiliser from the soil and convert this into organic selenium, which is safer and more efficient in terms of nutrition that inorganic selenium.
The selenium content of domestic fertilisers sold in Finland is adjusted following the follow-up results of the Selenium Working Group. Since 1984 such adjustments have been made three times, in 1990, 1998 and 2007. Now the amount of selenium as selenate which may be added to domestic fertilisers sold in Finland where the addition of selenium is allowed for the type designation concerned is 15 mg/kg of dry matter.
The Selenium Working Group monitors the impact of selenium fertilisation on the selenium content in the soil, environment, feedingstuffs, foods, and human blood and serum. Systematic sampling of these has been done since 1985.
The report of the Selenium Working Group (in Finnish) is available at http://www.mtt.fi/mttraportti/pdf/mttraportti35.pdf
Veli Hietaniemi, Agrifood Research Finland, tel. +358 40 539 2266, firstname.lastname@example.org
Georg Alfthan, National Institute for Health and Welfare, tel.+358 40 586 1167, email@example.com