New Zealand due to make decision on folic acid in flour

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 20th March 2012

Health groups in Australia will be watching with interest to see if New Zealand buckles under recent pressures to implement mandatory addition of folic acid to flour products.

Australia agreed to the mandatory fortification of flour using folic acid through an amendment to the Food Standards Code in September 2009. However, despite being regulated by the same code, the New Zealand Government opted out at the time, officially ‘deferring’ commencement of mandatory fortification until 31 May 2012.

US-based organization, the Flour Fortification Initiative (FFI), is one of several organizations keen to see New Zealand implement mandatory fortification this time around.

The FFI comprises a number of companies that have vested interests in advocating for the mandatory introduction of various additives to flour around the world. Some of its members have recently been discussing ways to convince the New Zealand Government to adopt mandatory fortification.

Health concerns over mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid

The mandatory addition of folic acid to flour in Australia was based on an Australian Government initiative to reduce the number of neural tube defects (NTDs) (which are severe birth defects such as spina bifida) in the Australian population by increasing folic acid intakes in women who may become pregnant.

New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson reviewed the decision to fortify in July 2009, citing links between overconsumption of folate with cancer.

Equally, the Australian decision in 2009 to implement mandatory fortification in 2009 was not without debate over health concerns within the milling industry.

New Zealand’s Association of Bakers and the Green Party have previously opposed mandatory fortification, describing it as “mass medication”.

Meanwhile, Australian food industry law specialist Joe Lederman has reported that the mandatory fortification of flour in Australia may have a wider adverse health affect on people outside the targeted group. (The targeted group for this fortification was to be periconceptional females in child bearing age groups). His article can be viewed at: