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NZ should push pause on folic fortification

NZ should push pause on folic fortification

Fears voiced by Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson that New Zealand could jeopardise trans-tasman relations if it paused on the mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid is at odds with our willingness to go our own way on country of origin labelling, said Green Party MP Sue Kedgley.

“Is the Minister saying we have lost our food sovereignty over this issue? That New Zealand can’t delay or review our decision because the Australians want to go full steam ahead with mandatory fortification of bread,” said Green Party Food safety spokesperson Sue Kedgley.

“Kate Wilkinson should be aware that in 2006, when it suited Annette King, New Zealand decided not to join with Australia in implementing mandating country of origin labelling for food.

“New Zealanders should not be bullied into rushing this because of fears officials in Australia will get uppity."

From September 2009 all bread read made with wheat flour will contain folic acid under mandatory fortification. This includes all plain, fancy and sweet breads.

The mandatory folic acid fortification is a trans-tasman initiative of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) aimed at providing additional protection against neural tube defects (NTD’s).

New Zealand should be looking at what other countries are doing when it comes to adding folic acid into a food staple such as bread, said Ms Kedgley.

Earlier this year the Food Safety Authority of Ireland recommended putting the fortification of bread on hold. Increasing voluntary fortification in Ireland of certain foodstuffs had led to a decrease in neural tube defects.

The Irish working group also noted health concerns regarding too much folic acid and suggested a precautionary approach be taken with new data on this expected later this year.

“While experts agree there are health benefits with upping folate levels there are also health concerns about possible links between certain types of cancer and excess folate consumption,” said Ms Kedgley.

“Other countries in a similar position to New Zealand are taking a precautionary approach while working with industry regarding voluntary folic fortification to reduce NTD’s.

“It is important that New Zealand adopts a policy that sees both a decrease in NTD’s while allowing consumers some choice in what they eat,” said Ms Kedgley.

Note: Efforts by the Green Party among others managed to exempt organic bread from mandatory folic acid fortification.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0704/S00057.htm

Link to the Food Safety authority of Ireland statement

http://www.fsai.ie/details.aspx?id=7706

ENDS

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