Neural tube defects in babies set to fall
There is now another reason for Australian's to enjoy the goodness of bread! To reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in up to 50 babies a year, as of the 13th September 2009, folic acid fortification of wheat flour for bread making is now mandatory in Australia.
Folate, occurring naturally in green leafy vegetables, is a B-group vitamin essential for growth and development of cells and a healthy nervous system. Especially important during times of rapid growth, it is recommended women planning to or who may become pregnant should consume an additional 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the newborn baby such as Spina Bifida.
Public health education initiatives have failed to help women of child-bearing age reach folic acid targets. So, now Australian flour millers are required to add between 2-3mg/kg of folic acid per kilogram of flour, which equates to around 120 micrograms of folic acid per 100g of bread (2-3 slices), which can help provide the additional protection against neural tube defects. To reach higher targets associated with pregnancy, women are still encouraged to consume a daily folic acid supplement at least 1 month before and 3 months after conception, as well as 'eating their daily bread'.
Folic acid fortification of wheat flour for bread making will include all plain, fancy and sweet breads and rolls, bagels, foccacia, English muffins, flat breads (containing yeast) and flour mixes for home bread-making. Other products that might be made with bread-making flour include crumpets, scones, pancakes, pikelets, crepes, yeast donuts, pizza bases and crumbed products. Packaged flour sold for domestic use, organic bread, or bread made from grains other than wheat are not required to contain folic acid, however, manufacturers may add folic acid if they wish.
Mandatory folic acid fortification has been used safely in the United States and Canada for over 10 years and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) will be monitoring the effectiveness of the increased levels of folic acid in the food supply.
Keep an eye out for another great reason to eat bread in October, when the use of iodised salt for bread-making will become mandatory.
Already one of the leading sources of fibre in the diets of Australians, low in fat, a source of protein, thiamin, niacin and now folic acid, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy the goodness of bread!