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Govt fails to act on birth defect prevention

Dr Paul Hutchison National Party Associate Health Spokesman

8 September 2004

Govt fails to act on birth defect prevention

The Government could have helped prevent approximately 100 cases of neurological defects in babies if it had acted more vigorously four years ago, says National's Associate Health spokesman, Dr Paul Hutchison. "The Government missed an opportunity four years ago to sign up the Bakers and Millers Association to fortify flour with folate."

Ministry of Health officials admitted today in the Health Select Committee that the Government had achieved little over the past four years to prevent 25-35 defects yearly, despite the fact they agree folate prevents birth defects and that it is lacking in New Zealanders' diets.

Dr Hutchison says the Government is now working through a very lengthy process to get an agreement with Australia on mandatory fortification through Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

"Given the clear evidence that folic acid intake prevents defects, the Government should be doing far more to ensure women of child bearing age are aware of the need to take folate and to encourage voluntary fortification through the food industry," says Dr Hutchison.

ENDS

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