Folic acid mandatory in bread in New Zealand/Australia

by Eric Schroeder
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CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) on Friday announced its decision to require most bread to be fortified with folic acid. Organic and non-yeast leavened bread will be exempt from the requirement, the FSANZ said.

The announcement comes a week after the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency board gave the F.S.A. the go-ahead to prepare plans to add folic acid to certain foods.

The United States has fortified flour with folic acid since 1998, resulting in a drop of more than a quarter in such birth defects.

In developing the draft standard on the mandatory fortification of food with folic acid for inclusion in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, the FSANZ said the mandatory addition of folic acid to wheat flour for bread-making should fall within the prescribed range of 200 to 300 micrograms (0.2 to 0.3 mg) per 100 grams of flour.

"This level of fortification is expected to prevent between 14 and 49 neural tube defects in the 300 to 350 affected pregnancies in Australia each year when combined with existing voluntary fortification permissions and current levels of supplement usage," the FSANZ said. "In New Zealand, this level of fortification is expected to prevent between 4 and 14 neural tube defects each year."

The FSANZ said there is a transition period of two years for the new standard. After two years, a comprehensive and independent review of the decision will be initiated.

"The review will consider health impacts and the effectiveness of the initiative, the actual cost impacts on the food industry and the adequacy of the monitoring framework," the FSANZ said.

In New Zealand, folic acid will be added during the bread-making process, while in Australia it will be added directly to the flour.

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