Over the weekend Sue K was on TVNZ’s Q and A talking about a subject many people and frogs may be unaware of – the fact that as of early September all bread in New Zealand excepting organic bread will be fortified with folic acid.
This decision was taken in 2007 by the previous Labour Government and is aimed at lowering the numbers of children born with neural tube defects in New Zealand. However while new Zealand is preparing to go ahead with this other countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom have either pressed pause in mandatorily fortifying bread or are awaiting further scientific reviews.
For those women planning to have children or who may conceive, and, for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy getting enough folic acid is very important. In fact, the United Kingdom’s Food Safety authority points out that just eating food with folate in it is unlikely to be enough and suggests other means of upping a woman’s folate levels. It would be good to see a public health awareness campaign by the Government.
Over in Ireland due to the voluntary fortification across the food sector the Irish Food Safety Authority has held off on implementing a mandatory scheme – there was also concern at the potential for adverse effects to excessive high levels of folic acid.
New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister herself has proposed a ministerial meeting to review the situation – a month after the commencement of mandatory fortification!
One plus out of all this is that the chances are that now there will be a genuine debate around bread fortification and also a raising of awareness around NTDs.