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NZ Food Safety Authroity: Folic Acid Advice

29 March 2006

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority today reiterated its advice to women who are planning to have a baby, or who are in the early stages of pregnancy, to take a folic acid supplement.

"It is also important to ensure that the supplement is of the appropriate dose," says NZFSA's Jenny Reid.

"The recommended daily dose is 0.8 milligrams (800 micrograms). This is readily available and affordable and is sold over the counter as a medicine at pharmacies.

"Because there are careful controls in place around the manufacture of products that are sold over the counter as medicines, women can be confident they are taking the right amount," says Ms Reid, Assistant Director, Joint Food Standards.

Folic acid is a vitamin necessary for the formation of blood cells and new tissue and is important for reducing the risk of having a child with a neural tube birth defect.

It is recommended that a 0.8mg daily supplement is taken four weeks before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy.

If folic acid has not been taken before pregnancy it is still worth beginning the supplement as soon as pregnancy is known or expected. 0.8mg supplements are only available over the counter at pharmacies.

Ms Reid, who is also a New Zealand-registered dietician, is currently working closely with the food industry and FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) on introducing folic acid to some foods sold within New Zealand.

A draft assessment paper on mandatory fortification is due to be released by FSANZ in May and there will be an opportunity for the public to make submissions on the proposals put forward.

NZFSA will make a further announcement when the paper is released. It will also be available on both websites: www.nzfsa.govt.nz and www.foodstandards.gov.au.

Meanwhile, NZFSA's extremely popular booklet, 'Food Safety in Pregnancy' offers food safety guidelines to those women planning a family, and includes information on folic acid.

It is available from lead maternity carers, public health units and doctors' surgeries and can also be ordered free from the NZFSA advice line: 0800 NZFSA1 (0800 693 721).

Further information is also available in 'Food and Nutrition: Guidelines for Healthy Pregnant Women' which can be downloaded from the Ministry of Health's website: www.moh.govt.nz.

ENDS

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