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Minister passes the buck on folic acid

NZORD - the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders

Up to 20 babies every year will die or be seriously disabled by neural tube defects (NTDs) in New Zealand, thanks to the Government’s decision today to keep the fortification of bread voluntary, John Forman, Executive Director of the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders (NZORD) stated today.

Food Safety Minister, Kate Wilkinson, has announced that the scheme will remain voluntary, despite a low level of involvement from industry since the Government postponed the food standard in 2009.

“I’m disappointed and dismayed at today’s decision to keep the fortification of bread with folic acid voluntary, says Mr Forman.

“Industry have had three years to demonstrate their commitment to introducing folic acid (Vitamin B9) into their products and have failed to get behind the scheme, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that fortification of a staple food with folic acid significantly reduces the risk of giving birth to babies with NTDs.”

The Minister has stated that the Ministry of Primary Industries will continue to work with the bread industry to achieve a fortification rate of up to 50 percent of packaged bread and to help them develop a voluntary code of practice.

“In the last three years, industry has only introduced fortification in 12.5% of their products and has failed to deliver a promised public awareness campaign. Their commitment has been lacking and I have little faith that they will raise their game now.”

The Minister’s decision is a missed opportunity to take decisive action on this important public health issue and mandate a simple and effective way of reducing risk for women and their babies,” Mr Forman says.


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