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Thread: Fortified bread gets OK despite health worry

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    Default Fortified bread gets OK despite health worry

    Fortified bread gets OK despite health worry
    By COLIN ESPINER - Political editor - The Press
    Last updated 05:00 09/07/2009

    Swine flu fears put a stop to hongi Swine flu assessment by phone possible Risk measles outbreak will spread Fortified bread gets OK despite health worry Keyhole surgery 'first' No flu at school linked to Chinese scare Minister not keen on bread plan Malignant melanoma rate among maori jumps Fifth swine flu fatality Study finds Ritalin only a 'band aid'

    The Government is pushing ahead with the mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid, despite admitting to health concerns over the practice.

    Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said yesterday that from September bakers will be required by law to add folic acid to bread under the new New Zealand-Australia food standard.

    The standard was signed by former Labour food safety minister Annette King in 2007. She described it at the time as "a triumph for humanity and common sense".

    The addition of folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects in babies. All bread except organic and unleavened bread must contain between 80 and 180 micrograms of folic acid per 100 grams.

    Some research in Britain and Ireland links use of folic acid as a dietary supplement to a growing incidence of several types of cancer.

    Irish health authorities recommended in March putting fortification of bread on hold pending further work.

    Wilkinson said she was "not a fan" of the folic acid requirement and shared concerns about the potential health risks of adding folate to bread.

    The compulsory aspect went against National's philosophy of personal choice, she said, but the Government had no choice but to implement it as it was a joint operation with Australia approved by the previous government.

    "Annette King led the charge to have mandatory fortification throughout New Zealand and Australia and ignored widespread public opposition, as well as advice from industry," Wilkinson said.

    "New Zealand is part of a joint-standard system with Australia which is enshrined in both treaty and legislation, and we take these responsibilities seriously."

    Bakers' Association president Laurie Powell said bakers would begin preparations to implement the standard, but they believed it amounted to "mass medicating" New Zealanders in return for saving a small number of babies born each year with a neural tube defect.

    "The minister's plan is bad science and defies logic. The minister recently confirmed that the pregnant women she is targeting will need to eat 11 slices of bread a day to get their recommended dose of folic acid," he said.

    "Women statistically aren't big bread eaters.

    "Targeting the small number of women at risk with folic acid supplements is a much more effective strategy than blasting the entire New Zealand population."

    Bakers had suggested to the Government voluntarily fortifying a range of breads and supplementing the move with an advertising campaign, but that had been rejected, Powell said.

    Bakers wanted Wilkinson to delay implementation of the standard, using her authority under the Food Act, until concerns had been further investigated, he said.

    Wilkinson said she could not do that without jeopardising the trans-Tasman relationship, but she had asked officials to explore options with their Australian counterparts for varying the standard.

    "We've been left with the mess and we're trying to work within the standard to see what our options are," Wilkinson said.

    The New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders said the Government should "stand by sound science and public health interests" and implement the standard.

    The organisation said the bakers' arguments were selfish and lacked moral or economic justification.

    It said between 80 and 130 babies died or were seriously disabled by neural tube defects each year.

    "Most of these deaths or serious disabilities would be preventable by simply adding a trace of vitamin to replace what is stripped out of the wheat in the milling process," it said.

    Labour health spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said her party was pleased the Government was going through with the introduction of folic acid to bread.

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    Default Govt ditches folic acid plan

    Govt ditches folic acid plan
    By GRAHAME ARMSTRONG - Sunday Star Times
    Last updated 05:00 19/07/2009

    The bun-fight is over. Bakers will not be forced by law to add folic acid to our bread, bagels, crumpets and English muffins. The Key government will announce this week that it is throwing out the former government's policy.

    Cabinet is expected to formalise the government's position when it meets tomorrow, effectively putting the controversial issue on the back burner for three years and, crucially, beyond the next election.

    The government is not convinced that making folic acid a compulsory ingredient in all bread is necessary, and wants more time to assess the evidence. Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of babies being born with defects such as spina bifida, but bakers say women would need to eat at least 11 slices of bread a day to make a difference to the health of their unborn child.

    The Key government favours a voluntary regime. It has been looking for a way to wriggle out of the trans-Tasman agreement, struck by the former Labour government, and due to take effect on September 1.

    Community pressure mounted as the deadline approached. Radio talkback shows were last week inundated with indignant callers.

    The Star-Times understands that Food Minister Kate Wilkinson on Thursday reached an agreement with the Australian parliamentary secretary for health, Mark Butler, that exempts New Zealand from the new standard.

    When asked to confirm the deal, a spokesman for the minister declined to comment until cabinet had dealt with the matter.

    Bakers dispute the professed health benefits of folic acid in bread and insist that the only certainty would be a rise in their business costs.

    Under the trans-Tasman agreement, folic acid was to be mandatory in all wheat flour products, including sweet breads and rolls, bagels, foccacia, English muffins and flat breads that contain yeast.

    Crumpets, scones, pancakes, pikelets, crepes, yeast donuts, pizza bases and crumbed products were also to be fortified with folic acid.

    Only organic and non-yeast leavened breads were to be exempt under the agreement.

    Folate is a B group vitamin found naturally in food such as green leafy vegetables. Folic acid is the manufactured form used in supplements and is more easily absorbed than natural folate.

    Food Standards Australia New Zealand says consuming enough folic acid substantially reduces the risk of neural tube defects, which affects up to 75 pregnancies in New Zealand every year.

    The regulator also says high doses of folic acid are not known to have any adverse effects on healthy people, although two US studies have linked excessive folate to higher rates of prostate cancer in men and inflammatory bowel disease in children.

    The former food safety minister, Annette King, said at the time the decision was made to make folic acid mandatory in bread that it was "a triumph for humanity and common sense", and would mean up to 14 fewer neural tube defect-affected pregnancies a year.

    It is generally accepted, however, that pregnant and breastfeeding women would still need to take folic acid supplements even if the vitamin was a compulsory ingredient in bread. Eating bread would provide only 140 micrograms a day when the total recommended daily intake was 600mcg.

    Katherine Rich, chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council, said many New Zealanders would breathe a sigh of relief because they did not like the idea of the government tampering with their bread.

    There were genuine concerns about the health effects and the prime minister was right to delay any decision until all the facts were known, she said. It was also an issue about freedom of choice.

    "It's quite a scary intervention to dose an entire country," Rich, a former National MP, said.

    "A trip to the baker should not be a trip to the chemist."

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    Folic acid out, but iodine in
    By COLIN ESPINER - The Press
    Last updated 05:00 21/07/2009

    Folic acid may be out, but iodine will soon be a mandatory addition to New Zealand bread.

    Prime Minister John Key said yesterday that the Cabinet had agreed to a proposal to delay the implementation of the mandatory addition of folic acid to bread until a review in May 2012.

    The decision follows an outcry from bakers and the public over a joint food standard with Australia signed by the previous Labour government.

    The Cabinet's decision completes a U-turn by the Government. Two weeks ago, Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said bread fortification would proceed, despite concerns over potential health risks.

    Mandatory inclusion of iodine in all bread except organic varieties will start in September.

    Under the food standard, New Zealand bakers must replace the use of non-iodised salt with iodised salt, while iodine, thiamin and folic acid, will be added to wheat flour in Australia.

    Food Standards Australia New Zealand agreed to the mandatory addition of iodine to bread last year. The decision was not widely publicised and has been lost in the row over folic acid.

    Iodine, a trace mineral necessary to help the thyroid gland function properly, is already added to table salt, but bakers generally use non-iodised salt because it is cheaper.

    Bakers decided not to fight the move, concentrating on folic acid instead.

    Key said National believed in freedom of choice and personal responsibility "as a general rule".

    "But there are additives to food that will occur on a mandatory basis," he said.

    "Where there is mass benefit and widespread community acceptance and the science supports it, National would support those actions."

    The Government will spend three weeks consulting with the public over whether to put folic acid in bread, despite having decided not to introduce it.

    The options presented will be status quo, complete revocation of the food standard or deferral.

    Wilkinson said a discussion document proposing the delay would be released tomorrow and that a final decision had not been made.

    "The proposal aims to give us more time to evaluate the risks and benefits of the standard and to take into account the wishes of New Zealanders," she said.

    The Press understands the Government is going ahead with the consultation process because it is concerned legal action could be taken by proponents of folic acid fortification if it did not.

    Bakers Association president Laurie Powell said he planned to call a "bread summit" to propose positive industry initiatives.

    After the summit, bakers would invite groups such as Parents of Children with Spina Bifida to help in the development of a voluntary plan to fortify a range of breads, he said.

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    Bakers agree to folic acid
    5:00AM Wednesday Aug 26, 2009

    The baking industry will move towards voluntarily fortifying a wider range of breads with folic acid, and supports a marketing campaign for pregnant women, Association of Bakers' president Laurie Powell says.

    The industry held a summit yesterday, before the Government's expected announcement tomorrow that it will delay a requirement for bakers to add folic acid to bread.

    The previous Government had signed an agreement for the mandatory addition of folic acid to all bread.

    But the present Government made it clear it preferred a three-year deferral of the agreement.

    Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida, but bakers say women would need to eat at least 11 slices of bread a day to make a difference.

    There was unanimous support at the summit yesterday for a movement towards the voluntary fortification of a wider range of breads targeted at women of childbearing age.

    There was also unanimous support for a marketing campaign to raise awareness of the importance of optimum folate levels for pregnant women.

    Mr Powell said the industry would now develop a draft plan.

    - NZPA

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