Folic acid in bread shows results

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 18th January 2011

A study in the Medical Journal of Australia shows that blood folate levels have significantly improved since the introduction of mandatory fortification of bread flour with folic acid in 2009.

The news has been welcomed by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King.

“Since September 2009, Australian millers have added folic acid (a form of the B vitamin folate) to wheat flour for making bread,” King said.

“I congratulate industry for the work they’ve done in implementing this important initiative, which aimed to reduce the number of neural tube defects in the Australian population by increasing folic acid intakes in women who may become pregnant.”

Neural tube defects are severe birth defects, including conditions like Spina Bifida and anencephaly, which can cause serious developmental problems. Neural tube defects are often fatal. Research shows that sufficient folic acid during pregnancy can prevent neural tube defects.

King said sufficient folic acid was vital for women in the lead up to getting pregnant. As well as being essential for pregnant women, getting enough folate is important for everybody as it helps the body make healthy new cells.

“The decision to introduce mandatory fortification was taken after a comprehensive, rigorous safety assessment by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ),” she said. “FSANZ is continuing to monitor emerging scientific research on folic acid and public health and safety.”

“Mandatory fortification of folic acid in bread is only one important step in reducing the number of neural tube defects. For example, anyone considering getting pregnant should also consider taking folic acid supplements.”

Consumers can identify foods with added folic acid by checking the ingredient list on the label of packaged foods.