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NZ opposition calls for mandatory folate fortification

Posted by Rita Mu

The New Zealand Labor party is calling for the New Zealand Government to introduce the mandatory fortification of folate in bread flour.

The Labour Party’s Food Safety spokesperson, Dr Ashraf Choudhary, said New Zealand should follow suit of countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States and Chile, which have made the move to fortify flour.

“It’s time [Food Safety Minister] Kate Wilkinson pulled her head out of the sand,” Dr Choudhary said. “Three slices of bread containing folate a day could save $39 million per year and most importantly could prevent up to 14 Spina Bifida cases annually…It’s time [the New Zealand] Government took action on this issue.”

Folate, a B vitamin found naturally in leafy vegetables, is critical for cell development and growth and particularly beneficial to women in the lead up to pregnancy.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority recommends a mandatory fortification level of 130µg of folic acid per 100g of bread flour.

The previous Labour-led Government approved plans with Australia in 2007 to add folate to bread, however the National Party pulled out of the agreement in 2009 when it came into power over health concerns. According to a report in The New Zealand Herald, the mandatory fortification has been deferred until May 2012.

A recent study conducted by the Sydney Royal Prince Alfred Hospital shows the prevalence of folate deficiency in Australia has significantly reduced since the mandatory fortification of folic acid in bread flour came into effect in 2009.

Image: Foodsafety.govt.nz

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