5 Aug 2018

Time for NZ to put folic acid in bread, says paediatrician

2:28 pm on 5 August 2018

A new report that concludes folic acid in bread is linked to lower rates of birth defects is nothing new, a paediatrician says.

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Photo: RNZ

A report released on Friday, commissioned by the Ministry of Health, found that mandatory fortification is the best way to avoid many neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

But Dr Andrew Marshall, a paediatrician for the Capital and Coast District Health Board, said it was already widely known that folic acid in bread was linked to lower rates of birth defects.

Dr Marshall told Sunday Morning studies confirmed that more than a decade ago.

"To some extent it's frustrating because ...this is a fantastic report but it produces just the same evidence as we had in 2006, 2007 and it was the evidence then that folic acid was safe and effective at reducing neural tube defects," he said.

The government at the time pledged to put folic acid in flour following the reports, but in 2009 pulled out of it.

Dr Marshall said 80 countries in the world were already putting folic acid in flour and New Zealand should follow suit.

The Australian government had also made the move to add folic acid at the same time.

Dr Marshall said there wasn't any public pushback over there.

"In Australia it's much simpler because there are only two or three major flour mills," he said.

"Here, we're talking about hundreds ...community bakeries and things, adding folic acid to their product."