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SMC: Call for folic acid fortification

Call for folic acid fortification.
A joint report by the PM's former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman and the Royal Society Te Apārangi has made the case for mandatory folic acid fortification in packaged breads.

The report, commissioned by the Ministry of Health in 2017 and released today, found "compelling evidence" that taking recommended levels of folic acid in pregnancy has no adverse effects on pregnancy outcome or the child’s health.

Folate fortification of bread-making flour has been voluntary to date, but the report says it's time for New Zealand to follow in the footsteps of at least 80 other countries and make it mandatory.

The report has been met with enthusiasm from academics, with many urging the Government to adopt mandatory fortification as soon as possible.

Massey Associate Professor Barry Borman, a long-time commentator on the issue, said "the need to appease the industry has held sway over the proven benefits of a mandatory programme".

"Meanwhile, about 30 babies per year continue to be born with a defect which could easily have been averted by a programme of mandatory folic acid fortification."

As people are eating less bread, AUT Professor of Nutrition Elaine Rush said other measures needed to be taken as well, the NZ Herald reported.
"Environmental measures in addition to the fortification of bread, that would reach the most vulnerable in society, could include removing the GST on fruit and vegetables, building more community gardens, paying a living wage and reducing homelessness, overcrowding and child poverty," she said.
The SMC gathered expert reaction to the report.

Quoted: RNZ

"We know nothing about [kākahi's] basic biology, ecology, interactions with other species - we just know nothing about them, and that's phenomenal for a species that's almost gone..."

Victoria University PhD student and freshwater biologist Amber McEwan
on threatened kākahi or freshwater mussels, during a translocation to Zealandia.

Deaths reveal drug damage
Between 40 and 45 people have died from synthetic drugs since last June, according to provisional figures released by the coroner last Friday.

Image credit: ESR
The figures were a spike compared with previous years - in the five years previous to June 2017, there were just two confirmed deaths, RNZ reported.

With calls for the government to do something about the growing issue, experts have raised the issue of drug reform as a matter of urgency.

Speaking to RadioLive, AUT psychology and public health professor Max Abbott said decriminalising cannabis will reduce deaths from synthetic drugs.

"People know that it’s dangerous but they are still using it at the moment, partly because it’s difficult to get cannabis at the moment.
“The [cannabis] law is damaging people."

Wellington ED specialist Paul Quigley said not enough work was being done to discover why users feel a need to use drugs and in particular 'synnies' in the first place, Vice reported.

"Is there some form of community or social intervention we can do that would impact this dangerous demand?”

To help tackle the problem, Crown Research Institute ESR is developing a national early warning system for drug monitoring and surveillance.
The SMC gathered expert reaction on drug reform options.

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Policy news & developments

Steve Maharey new Pharmac chair: Steve takes over as chairman from Stuart McLauchlan whose term as chair expired on Tuesday. His appointment is for a three year term.

Better visa access to US: US President Donald Trump has signed an Act allowing business people to gain a visas that allow entry to the US multiple times over two years.

Employment rates at record high: 94,000 more people were in employment in the June 2018 quarter compared to June 2017.

More Kiwis need housing: There are now 8704 households on the waiting list for a state house, up 56 per cent from the same time last year.

China-NZ Year of Tourism: The foundations have been laid for the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism, with a new website launched and funding for a major exhibition at Te Papa.

Biosecurity Awards open: Kiwis encouraged to celebrate those helping to keep our flora, fauna and vital primary sectors safe by nominating them for New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

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