Does folic acid fortification go far enough?


Tuesday, 12 February, 2019


Does folic acid fortification go far enough?

In Australia folic acid fortification is mandatory in all plain, fancy and sweet breads, rolls and buns; bagels; focaccia; English muffins; flat breads made with yeast; and flour mixes and flour for domestic bread. In New Zealand the government has opted for a voluntary fortification standard.

Folic acid has been found to minimise the risks of birth defects particularly neural tube defects (NTD) such as spina bifida. NTDs occur very early in pregnancy often before the woman knows she is pregnant, hence the need for widespread fortification.

But does this fortification cover enough of the population? Does folic acid fortification go far enough?

Is the current fortification standard leaving sections of the community at higher risk of NTDs simply because they do not consume wheat flours?

In the US, the Center for Science in the Public Interest is concerned that corn masa flour lacks the fortification requirement that applies to other flours, and thus, it is rarely fortified. Corn masa flour is consumed more often by Hispanic women and by failing to fortify corn masa and corn tortillas with folic acid the risk of serious birth defects in this demographic is increased.

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