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Folic future gets what it kneads

Workers at Breadcraft’s Masterton factory. PHOTOS/FILE

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

The Government’s announcement that folic acid will be added to most bread has been met with support from bakers nationwide, including Wairarapa’s Breadcraft.

This month, the Government announced its decision to mandate the fortification of folic acid in non-organic wheat flour used for bread making. The decision aimed to improve health outcomes.

By mid-2023, flour millers must ensure wheat flour sold as suitable for making bread must contain no less than 2mg/kg and no more than 3mg/kg of folic acid.

Organic products would be exempt.

Breadcraft Wairarapa is supporting the government’s recent announcement that folic acid will be added to most bread.

Breadcraft Wairarapa Limited director John Cockburn said the company was a member of the New Zealand Association of Bakers and supported the move along with its industry partners.

“As an industry, over 40 per cent of all sliced bread contains folic acid already,” Cockburn said.

“Breadcraft is in line with the overall national fortification level of 40 per cent plus.”

The company produced more than 100 different products, so he could not specify which products were already fortified.

“Consumers can check the ingredient listing on the packaging of their favourite loaves in-store.”

While the company needed to work through the implications of the announcement on ingredient costs with its flour suppliers, Cockburn hoped there would be little, if any, increase in price to the consumer.

The decision to add folic acid at the flour mills also meant there would be no change to the standard operating procedures within the bakery.

“It was certainly the smartest option, and I acknowledge the co-operative input from both the flour millers and baking industry,” Cockburn said.

While bakeries were not currently required to fortify products with folic acid, the NZAB had agreed to fortify 25 to 50 per cent of bread through a 2014 code of practice.

The code would be made invalid when the new legislation came into play, though bread makers may continue to fortify their products until flour millers began mandatory folic acid fortification.

The NZAB represented the large plant bakers in New Zealand and was comprised of seven member companies. In a statement, it said folic acid is an essential B vitamin important for the healthy development of babies early in pregnancy.

Evidence showed consuming sufficient folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy could prevent many cases of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Although the NZAB had previously strongly opposed mandatory fortification, members had voluntarily fortified some of their products since 2010 after realising the benefits.

“Initially, there were concerns over potential health risks of fortification,” the statement said.

“More recent scientific reviews have shown that there is no conclusive evidence that folic acid in the amount recommended for fortification purposes has any harmful effects on health.

Since being assured of safety of fortification combined with overseas evidence of efficacy, NZAB fully supports mandatory fortification.”

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