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Bread fortifying with folic acid to be voluntary

Hon Kate Wilkinson
Minister for Food Safety
30 August 2012 Media Statement
Bread fortifying with folic acid to be voluntary

The fortification of bread with folic acid will remain voluntary, Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson announced today.

A thorough eight-week public consultation process by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) resulted in 134 submissions, of which 88 supported voluntary instead of mandatory fortification.

“In making my decision in favour of voluntary fortification, I read all the submissions and the clear message is that people want choice,” Ms Wilkinson says.

In 2009 Ms Wilkinson also established the Folic Acid Working Group which included health professionals, representatives of families affected by neural tube defects (NTD) and members of the bread industry. Their views and submissions informed the current voluntary initiatives and her decision.

Women’s red blood folate levels have increased in the past few years under the existing voluntary fortification. Between 2008 and 2011 the level of women with blood folate levels that put them at risk of having a neural tube defect (NTD) affected pregnancy has nearly halved.

“Folic acid plays an important role in reducing NTDs in babies, but fortification of bread is only one part of a wider package of initiatives.”

Other initiatives in place include the existing voluntary fortification of a range of other foods and Ministry of Health initiatives such as providing educational information and subsidised folic acid tablets available on prescription.

MPI will continue to work with the bread industry to achieve a fortification rate of up to 50 per cent of packaged bread and assist them with developing a voluntary code of practice to meet the requirements in the standard.

MPI will work with Ministry of Health and the bread industry to ensure that the range of breads fortified achieves the best effect on NTDs.

The Ministries will monitor the effectiveness of the standard with any new data helping inform decisions on how to get the best result for New Zealand women.

Bakeries using folic acid receive annual visits from auditors currently and these visits will include checks on how they are fortifying to meet the
New Zealand (Permitted Fortification of Bread with Folic Acid) Food Standard 2012. This permits voluntary fortification of bread with a maximum permissible level of 250 micrograms folic acid per 100 grams.

“MPI will keep me informed of the results of this monitoring,” Ms Wilkinson says.

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