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Folic Acid Proposal Fundamentally Flawed

New Zealand Association of Bakers Inc


Folic Acid Proposal Fundamentally Flawed


A proposal by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) for the compulsory addition of folic acid to all bread is fundamentally flawed and should be withdrawn, the New Zealand Association of Bakers and the New Zealand Flour Millers Association said today.

“We totally understand and support the intention behind the proposal,” President of the New Zealand Bakers Association, Laurie Powell said. “Reducing the number of Neural Tube Defects (NTD’s), in babies by ensuring that women of child-bearing age consume enough folic acid is an important public health measure, however the compulsory fortification of bread is not the way to go.

"It won’t have the desired effect and has the potential to introduce a range of unnecessary health risks to other segments of the population. It also removes the right of people to choose what supplements they consume.”

Mr Powell said the Associations urged FSANZ and the Minister of Food Safety, Annette King and her Australian counterparts, to re-think the proposal and to adopt a combination of voluntary fortification across a wider range of food stuffs and education.

“Whilst we understand that discussion on folic acid fortification has been taking place for some time, this is the first time there has been a recommendation for mandatory fortification of bread to the exclusion of all other options.

“At the very least, FSANZ needs to extend the consultation period for their proposal so that all New Zealanders can be properly informed and have their say”.

The FSANZ recommendation was released on 3 July. It has not been widely publicised and submissions on it close on 31 July.

Mr Powell said there were potential health risks associated with the consumption of folic acid, particularly with regard to older people and children.

The British Government rejected the proposal for mandatory fortification of bread in 2004 because of fears about adverse health effects. A subsequent review has been delayed following a consumer backlash against fortification and concerns around potential health issues. (See attached letter.)

Mr Powell said the industry believed that a combination of voluntary fortification of a variety of foodstuffs, education and supplements was the answer to ensuring women of child-bearing age met their daily folic acid requirements.

“What we are deeply concerned about is turning a basic food staple consumed by all New Zealanders into a mass medication experiment.”

“Our members already produce folic enriched breads and we can and will increase the range available to the market. We’re also willing to put marketing support behind that and to work with Government and other interested parties on an education campaign.”

Mr Powell said research conducted by the Associations showed there would be strong resistance from New Zealanders, including women of child-bearing age, to compulsory fortification.

Research conducted in Australia, but also thought to be relevant in New Zealand, showed that half of all women of child bearing age consume very little bread on any specific day.

In addition, to obtain the recommended daily dose of folic acid women would have to eat about 11 slices of white bread each day but on average they only eat about 11 slices of bread in total a week.

Mr Powell said the FSANZ proposal was to fortify all bread making flour with folic acid.

“This means all bread baked in New Zealand would be fortified – so if people had concerns about the measure they couldn’t eat bread at all”.

“However, the situation is even worse than that because in New Zealand there is no distinction between bread making flour and other flour - it is all the same thing. This means all flour and products made with flour would contain additional folic acid

Ends

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