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Standard 2.1.1 folic acid fortification – some background info

August 31, 2015
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The mandatory fortification 2.1.1 standard was introduced in 2009 to increase the intake of folic acid  by  women  of  child-bearing  age and reduce the incidence of infants born  with neural tube defects. Since 2009, all wheat bread (except  organic  bread)  contains flour fortified with folic acid. When folic acid is added to food,  it  must  be declared in the ingredient list of the final food.

The  amount  of folic acid in bread was never intended to provide the sole  source of folic acid for pregnant women.  With the introduction of  folic  acid  fortification,  health professionals were advised to continue  to  recommend  a  folic  acid  supplement to women who were planning a pregnancy.

Below are the messages the Food Safety Unit have prepared (nationally) for health professionals and consumers on this issue.

Proposed communication messages to health professionals and consumers in response to the anticipated global folic acid supply shortage:

Folic acid in bread provides a ‘safety net’ level of folic acid for women. Women planning a pregnancy should follow the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommendation and continue to take a daily folic acid supplement at least one month before, and three months after conception. This is in addition to eating a healthy and varied diet as recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

The target population of women aged 16-44 years are also encouraged to consume other food sources of folate which include dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, citrus fruit, fruit juice, legumes such as lentils and peas, and whole grains.

 Folic acid fortification of wheat flour for bread making was introduced to reduce neural tube defects by helping women enter pregnancy with improved exposure to folate. There is a supply shortage of folic acid, which is required for fortifying wheat flour used for making bread.

Due to this shortage, wheat flour used in bread products may not consistently include folic acid. There is no threat to folic acid supplies for the supplement industry.